The Atlanta Hawks continue their downward spiral. Injuries have thrown a wrench into a season that once looked so promising. After snapping their eight-game skid against the New York Knicks, they have dropped three in a row.
However, there has been one positive from this losing streak. Jeff Teague is finally playing aggressively and taking his game to another level. He does not deserve the blame for the most recent skid.
Over the past three games, Teague has scored 26 points twice and 29 once. Not only is he scoring at a high rate, but he is also doing it efficiently. Despite the increased amount of shots, he was able to connect on 57.6 percent over the past three games.
During the three games, Teague's aggressive play has been the difference-maker. Driving to the rim instead of settling for jumpers has been the main change. When Teague plays this way, he can hang with any point guard in the league.
Proof of this was seen in his past two games.
Against the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics, he outplayed two of the league's top point guards in Goran Dragic and Rajon Rondo, respectively. He attacked the rim relentlessly against both opponents.
Here is his shot chart against the Celtics:
Teague took almost all of his shots at the rim: 13 of his 18 shots came from there. He also finished at a high rate of 61.54 percent.
This all came against one of the most highly regarded defensive point guards. Rondo has made four All-Defensive teams, but could not stop Teague from getting to the basket.
He continued to attack the rim against the Suns. Seventeen of his 21 shots came from right at the rim, and he was able to convert 12 of them.
Here is his shot chart against the Suns:
The Suns game was played at a very high pace, which is exactly the type of tempo Teague can excel in. He can push the ball in transition and finish with an array of moves near the basket.
Teague has a repertoire of finishes at his disposal. He can throw it down when he gets a head of steam, finish with smooth layups or send a nice floater over the bigs.
These highlights against the Suns showcase his finishing ability.
It does not have to come on the fast break; he can also blow by a defender using sheer quickness. Just look at him blow by D.J. Augustin for the slam.
The Hawks need Teague to play with this aggression to stay in the playoff picture. Once Paul Millsap returns, Teague needs to continue playing with the same takeover attitude.
He has the tendency to look uninterested at times, but with all of the injuries, the Hawks simply cannot have that version of Teague.
If Teague ever hopes to join the elite point guard conversation, he will need to be the constantly attacking Teague. It plays to his natural strengths.
He will never be a great shooter like Stephen Curry or have the pinpoint passing of a Rajon Rondo. However, he has gifts of athleticism and quickness that few point guards can match, and he needs to use them to his advantage every game.
Hopefully his improved play will translate into a Hawks win. We will see if Teague can carry the Hawks to victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
All stats from nba.com/stats unless noted otherwise.
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