It turns out there’s a way to slow down the Atlanta Hawks and make their beautiful basketball style look bad: Simply beat them up. That’s part of the plan the Memphis Grizzlies used in a 94-88 win over the leaders in the Eastern conference.
The difference was in the starting lineups, the unit the Hawks supposedly have an advantage with against everyone in the league. They were outscored by 15 points, turned the ball over twice as much as the Grizzlies’ starters and struggled to get to the line. The Grizzlies attacked the screens and prevented the Hawks from passing the ball or moving around as much as they’re used to. Held to just 88 points, their third worst of the season, the Hawks assisted on less than 52% of their field goals compared to over 73% when they beat the Warriors last week.
Mike Conley had an interesting duel with Jeff Teague, scoring 21 points to the 22 from the Hawks’ point guard. But while the Grizzlies couldn’t slowdown everyone and everything about the Hawks, they held Al Horford and Paul Millsap to just 10 combined points on 4-of-21 from the field. It wasn’t pretty as the Grizzlies shot 39.1% from the field while both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were less than efficient. But the Grizzlies are used to winning that way. It feels weirder for the Hawks to wiggle out wins like this.
We did what we do. We keep it close as long as we can and try to outwork you at the end. We were able to get a couple of possessions to go our way. We’re a physical team, and we beat you up for four quarters and hopefully it wears you down. I thought we wore them down a little bit. Both teams were exhausted.
Without the usual ball movement, the Hawks couldn’t punish the Grizzlies from long distance. Kyle Korver did fine with 2-of-5 from 3-point range, but Pero Antic and Paul Millsap each missed three shots while DeMarre Carroll was only 2-of-6. They did make 12-of-30 shots overall, not bad at all, but it didn’t come through the flow of the game and wasn’t threatening enough to stretch the Grizzlies in a way to allow them easy points in the paint.
If anyone needed a reminder that we have no idea what the NBA finals are going to look like, this was another example. The Hawks are a very good team but not unbeatable and they have their weaknesses that go beyond simply having a bad shooting day. The Grizzlies are one of those teams with the personnel and defense to make them look bad. They can do it to the Warriors as well, which makes the identity of the teams about to go all the way a mystery more than ever before.