Decisive Teague helps Hawks overcome Clippers in impressive win

Jeff Teague didn’t want the spotlight.

However, it was the Hawks point guard who played a big role in a road win over the Clippers Saturday night. The victory was one of the best of the season for the Hawks and came in the middle of their toughest stretch of schedule.

Teague finished with a game-high 22 points, seven assists, five rebounds and one steal in the 107-97 victory at the Staples Center. He was 8 of 15 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and had a plus-17 rating.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” a subdued Teague said. “My teammates put me in a good position to be successful. It was just a great team win.”

The Hawks’ offense is predicated on speedy point guards being aggressive in breaking down opposing defenses, getting into the lane and either finishing or kicking to an open teammate. Teague found a higher gear against the Clippers.

“That Jeff, that’s the Jeff we need every night,” Kent Bazemore said. “Not too many guys in the league can stay in front of him. When he puts his head down like that, when he’s aggressive, it helps us out tremendously.”

The Hawks are now 2-1 on the five-game road trip that continues against the Jazz on Tuesday and the Raptors on Thursday. The Hawks are fifth in the Eastern Conference. They trail the fourth-place Heat by 1-1/2 games and lead the Hornets by one game.

The Hawks, as a team, got off to a slow start against the Clippers and trailed 37-25 after one quarter. Teague had five points in the period without an assist or rebound and had a minus-eight rating. The Clippers were red-hot and shot 58 percent from the field, including six 3-pointers, in the period. The Hawks trailed by 17 points in the second quarter before they started the impressive comeback.

In the second quarter, Teague had five points, three assists, two rebounds and was a plus-5. In the third quarter, he had seven points, three assists, one rebound and was a plus-6. In the fourth quarter, he had five points, one assist, two rebounds and was a plus-14.

The Hawks got solid all-around games from several players – they had six double-digit scorers, including all five starters. Teague and backup Dennis Schroder gave the Clippers fits. Schroder added 16 points and three assists. Clippers All-Star Chris Paul finished with 17 points but only eight after the first quarter.

“I feel like I let Dennis and Teague have a field day just getting it where they wanted to,” Paul said.

It wasn’t just on offense where Teague excelled. The Hawks adjusted their defense after the first quarter and moved to trap Clippers guards Paul, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers. They strategy stymied the Clippers. They had five turnovers in the first half and 14 in the second half.

“I thought he was great on both ends,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He set the tone for us defensively on Chris Paul in the pick-and-rolls and offensively in attacking the basket. A couple of situations where he was taking handoffs and getting to the basket quickly. It was just a very good game from Jeff.”

Following the game, Teague shied away from any notion that he had any extra incentive playing against Paul, who also played at Wake Forest. The Hawks limited Paul to 11 points in a loss in Atlanta in January. Teague’s teammates noted the importance of slowing down Paul.

“He accepted the challenge of Chris Paul,” Paul Millsap said. “He attacked and he stayed in attack mode the whole game. He wasn’t passive. He was in attack. Everything he did was decisive. That’s what we needed.”