Found November 01, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
ATLANTA This was more of how it was supposed to look. After a season opener on the road in which the Hawks got the offensive part right but the defensive part wrong, they placed together a better semblance of the package on Friday, making new head coach Mike Budenholzer's home opener a successful one with a 102-95 win over Toronto at Philips Arena. With an offense that showed off the kind of spacing that Budenholzer preaches, the Hawks made 43.5 percent of their three-pointers (10-of-23), led by the lights-out shooting of Kyle Korver, who made a three-pointer for his 75th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the league and the fourth-longest in league history. On Friday it was evident as to why Korver chose to re-sign a four-year, 24-million contract with the Hawks in the offseason, even as they remain a work in progress in general manager Danny Ferry's second season with eight new players. Korver would appear to be one of the primary beneficiaries of the new offensive philosophy and on Friday he made 5-of-8 three-pointers to finish with 17 points. Korver said after the game that Budenholzer and his offensive philosophy -- utilizing concepts more than the running of actual plays -- were a major factor in his decision to return. "Absolutely," Korver said. "The places that I was looking to go during free agency, I wanted to play a certain kind of basketball. I wanted to play the kind of basketball that was a good fit for me and I was a good fit for the offense and for the team strategy and meeting with coach Bud before free agency, he kind of shared his vision. You know where he came from (San Antonio), you know he's going to bring a lot of what they had there and that's what I wanted to be a part of, just good basketball. "We talk all the time: Don't just pound the ball, don't just go one-on-one. Just trust the system. And we still have ways to go in learning to trust the system. ... As long as we keep learning the play within the play, play the concept, when you have good spacing there's just going to be good shots for everybody." This is the continued evolution of Ferry's plan. Pounding the ball? That is why Joe Johnson was among the first whom Ferry jettisoned. It's also why the Hawks elected not to re-sign Josh Smith. With those two aforementioned players gone, it's also allowing point guard Jeff Teague to flourish in his fifth season. Coming off a 24-point, nine-assist game in the opener that was marred only by six turnovers, Teague totaled 12 assists and only one turnover to go with 17 points on Friday. "The evolution and growth of Jeff Teague from playing against him in the playoffs when I was in Chicago (in 2011) from last year to this year, his development as a point guard has been amazing," Korver said. "I think coming in, he was just kind of -- he could get to the basket and good flow game but people didn't think he could see the floor very well. "He's worked really hard. He's kind of grasping the leadership role he's supposed to have on this team as the point guard. I can't say enough good things about him. As someone who relies heavily on the point guard, I'm in his ear all the time, telling him stuff and he just keeps on getting better. ... We're going to need him to play at a high level this year." Budenholzer credited Teague's aggressiveness as he continues to learn those new offensive concepts. "I think that just him getting into the paint and us spacing the court and him understanding where his shooters are, where his bigs are rolling, I think all that's going to come with time," Budenholzer said. "Some of the turnovers the other night, I'm okay. If he's being aggressive and he's pushing and he's in attack mode, early there might be some turnovers. My priority with Jeff -- and, really, the whole group -- is to get them to be in attack mode and to play aggressive and I'm going to have to live with a few miscues early." Among those in attack mode was center Al Horford, who finished with team-highs in points (22) and rebounds (16). With Horford firing offensively and with Teague's finding the open man and the Hawks nailing those three-pointers, the Hawks built an 18-point lead with 4:23 left in the third quarter. The Raptors (1-1) made a bit of a run late to try and close the gap, as DeMar DeRozan (31 points on 14-of-23 shooting), erupted for 23 in the second half. But the Hawks held off the Raptors and their transition defense -- Atlanta's Achilles' heel in Wednesday's 118-109 loss to Dallas -- improved dramatically. They allowed Toronto eight fast-break points, as opposed to 19 in the opener. "In terms of the transition defense, it's one of the hardest things in basketball," Budenholzer said. "It takes a real discipline in your group and sometimes there's things the way the game flows and the way guys are sprinting back, it can be difficult but that's why we have to work on it and make it a priority and I hope it doesn't happen again. ... I hope it's a rarity but I know even the great teams and every team is working on transition defense from the start of the season to the end and I'm sure some nights we'll be better than others." In the end, the new coach's first victory helped to put "the icing," as Budenholzer put it, on what was an anxious week for him. He mentioned on Friday morning that he had sought out his mentor, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a number of times to pick his brain. "There's no doubt, its a good feeling, Budenholzer said. I mostly feel for our group because of how hard they worked for the entire coaching staff, including myself. Just the energy and the effort and the focus and the intensity they bring every day, it gives me a good feeling. "And it's important to us and it's important to me that we win."
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