The Atlanta Hawks came home after a 10-day, 5-game road trip and started strong, gaining a 13-5 advantage to start the game, but gave way to sloppy passes and flatfooted defense as the energetic Memphis Grizzlies came into Atlanta and smoked the Hawks 96-77.
The Hawks need to attack to succeed and they had a hard time doing that against the Grizzlies, who forced turnover after turnover after that initial Hawks burst in the first quarter and then heavy duty in a third quarter that saw Memphis shoot 11-21 from the field while the Hawks went 5-19. That advantage would aid the visitors to a 26-12 third quarter margin and help them cruise on to victory over the previously hot Hawks.
Mike Conley gave Jeff Teague a hard time, forcing the triggerman in the Hawks offense to a 2-7 night from the field. Teague and Josh Smith, who had three turnovers including a staggering, fumbling throw out-of-bounds, checked out after merely two and a half minutes into the second half and only Teague made it back for a short stint in the fourth quarter. After the third quarter ended, both Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams felt the same fate and were done for the night.
Marreese Speights was also somewhat benched, albeit for the winning team. Speights started the night for Memphis, but got yanked early in the first quarter and his replacement, Dante Cunningham, typified the effort and productivity coach Lionel Hollins was looking for.
Cunningham came in and immediately made a difference, providing five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block for the first quarter. Cunningham had five offensive rebounds and 13 rebounds overall for the game while scoring eight points with three assists. Breaking the book, Hollins started Cunningham to start the second half instead of the original starter, Speights.
The Hawks had no defensive answers for the busy Grizzlies. Rudy Gay led five Memphis players with double digit scoring, putting 21 points on the board. Gay also added three steals as the league-leading theft team added 13 more to their tab in their rout of the Hawks. Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo both had 18 points in support of Gay's effort.
To underscore the ineffectiveness of the entirety of the Hawks team Thursday night, their lead scorer was the aforementioned benched Josh Smith, with 11. Joe Johnson, who torched Toronto two nights earlier for 30 points, had 10 points on 4-10 shooting.