How the Hawks dominated the Grizzlies with big help from a rookie

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How the Hawks dominated the Grizzlies with big help from a rookie

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Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) controls the ball against Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons (25) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Five observations from the Hawks’ 107-90 victory over the Grizzlies Saturday.

1. Taurean Prince still makes rookie mistakes – but they are getting fewer and farther between. The Hawks are trusting the wing and he rewarded them with a big game.

Prince finished with a team-high 17 points to establish a career-high in points. He also had three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in a career-high 31 minutes.

“Because we have so many great players on the team from Paul Millsap to Tim (Hardaway Jr.) to (Kent Bazemore), pretty much everybody on the team, it allowed for me,” Prince said. “Right now, I’m known for playing defense and getting back and floating around on offense and doing what I’m supposed to do. I felt like being aggressive tonight.”

Prince also set a career-high with five field goals and tied a career-high with three 3-pointers.

2. Jose Calderon served as the backup point guard for the third straight game. Expect at least a few more games with the newly-acquired Calderon getting the nod over Malcolm Delaney.

“Obviously he played well tonight,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We wanted to give him three, four, five games and evaluate then. We still have a lot of confidence in Malcolm. So we’ll play Jose some more. He’s been good. He is getting comfortable. His playmaking has been good for us.”

Calderon finished with 14 points, all in the second half.

“Even the first half took me awhile,” Calderon said. “It’s going to take some time. With no practice time, those are my practices. I’ve got to try not to make mistakes and get a feeling for my teammates at the same time. I’m going to be a little more aggressive. That was my mindset in the second half. The shots gave me a little more confidence. Every game is going to help and every game it has been better.”

3. The Hawks led by as many as 20 points in the second quarter. However, they saw the sizable margin cut to as few as seven points late in the quarter and the lead was 12 headed into intermission.

The Hawks have had trouble holding big leads this season. Kent Bazemore made sure the team didn’t let down again.

Bazemore opened the third quarter with eight straight points, including two straight 3-pointers. The Hawks went on a 20-8 run and Bazemore had 10 of the points. The Grizzlies never got closer than 14 points the rest of the game.

It’s no secret that it has been an up-and-down season for Bazemore. Saturday was a big up. He finished with 15 points.

“Being more confident,” Bazemore said of the start of the third quarter. “I’m really starting to feel a lot better. I’m spending a ton of time in the weight room. I was in the weight room for 45 minutes before the game just to get the body warm and continue to strengthen my body. I’m preparing for the long one with the playoffs.”

4. There was another film session. Budenholzer went over the team’s poor 3-point defense and then shared it during a group watch on Thursday.

So far, so good.

Over the past two games, Hawks opponents are 9 of 54 from 3-point range. That’s a meager 17 percent. The Raptors made 4 of 25 on Friday and the Grizzlies made 5 of 29 on Saturday.

“That is one of the areas where we’ve got to get better,” Budenholzer said. “Everyone is aware of it. We talked about it. We had a film session a couple days ago. I think the guys have been better.”

5. There was speculation that the Hawks would be in trouble against the Grizzlies by resting Dwight Howard. All-Star center Marc Gasol awaited.

The Hawks threw a number of players at the big man. Kris Humphries started the game at center but Ersan Ilyasova, Mike Muscala and Millsap took turns guarding the 7-foot-1 Gasol.

Well, Gasol finished with just eight points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. He was a minus-11. Humphries and Muscala combined for one point. Ilyasova fouled out. And still Gasol was a non-factor.

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