After an inspiring win over Chicago on Sunday night, the Hawks are all even in their second-round playoff series against the top-seeded Bulls going into Game 5 in Chicago. But regardless of how the rest of this series plays out, there’s one important positive that is being overshadowed when it comes their future: They may have found a legitimate starting point guard in Jeff Teague.
Teague couldn’t get off the bench for Mike Woodson. He couldn’t get off the bench for Larry Drew either, which prompted the Hawks to deal for Kirk Hinrich when they sent away Mike Bibby. When Hinrich was injured at the end of the Orlando series and scratched for the second round, few expected Teague would be a competent replacement.
But through four games in this series, Teague probably has been the Hawks’ best and most consistent player. He has used his speed and is gaining more confidence in running the offense and guarding the NBA’s MVP, Derrick Rose.
“I have to give Jeff Teague a lot of credit,” Joe Johnson said after Sunday’s 100-88 win. “He has really stepped up and played big in this series. He had a few big defensive plays where he got steals and came down the court and he maybe could’ve taken the shot. But he pulled out and ran the offense. That’s big for a second-year guard. He’s been unbelievable.”
Hinrich, who could be available for the Eastern Conference finals if the Hawks go on to upset the Bulls, said his replacement is “playing great. He’s taken advantage of his opportunity. He’s been solid, good defender.”
“As long as he would just go out and play and not worry about the scenario or anything like that, I thought he would be just fine,” he said. “Obviously he has the ability and he’s fast and he can finish at the rim.”
After all of the franchise’s miscalculations at point guard, it could be that the search is finally over.
By Jeff Schultz