Jeff Teague's play against Toronto was hardly the decisive factor in the Hawks' blowout win Wednesday. But the rookie guard's play was noteworthy. Teague played a season-high 22 minutes, many of them when the game was out of reach. However, Teague, whose minutes have varied this season and who didn't play in the Hawks' previous game, helped extend the Hawks' lead when they put the game away in the second quarter.
"I guess I'm getting better every day," Teague said. "I think [coach Mike Woodson] has a little more confidence in me."
The Hawks trailed 21-19 when Woodson sent him in with 3:17 to go in the first quarter. When he left the game with 8:07 left in the second quarter, the Hawks were up 43-32.
"I played him early because I just think if we're struggling, I've got to think about putting him in the game if it's a sluggish type [of pace] where he can speed the game up and change the tempo of the game," Woodson said. "I think he can do that for us."
Fans have called for Teague to play more. Woodson said the rookie's minutes will come as needed by the team, as is the case for other backups.
"If Teague plays 10 minutes, it's got to be a great 10 minutes for us, because I might not come back his way for a while," Woodson said. "That's the unique thing about having a bunch of talent on your team. And they've got to understand. You can't play everybody."
Teammates have been encouraging Teague.
"Jeff's going to be great," guard Joe Johnson said. "He can do so much for you offensively and defensively. He's just got to keep learning."
Through their first 11 games, the Hawks averaged 54.2 points in the paint, which led the league.
In the succeeding seven games, they did not score more than 44 points in the paint in any game until they scored 62 against Toronto. Entering Friday's game against New York, the average was 49.9, still second in the NBA.
As points in the paint includes baskets scored out of the post, on fast breaks and drives to the basket, a decrease in numbers isn't necessarily reflective of one element of a team's play.
However, said center Al Horford, "I think that [opponents] are starting to make that extra rotation on us and kind of challenging us at the rim, and I think that's where the extra pass has to come in. I think as we go along, we have to figure that out."
On Monday, Woodson was named to the 2010 class of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Woodson grew up in Indianapolis and played collegiately at Indiana, where he was a two-time all-American.
He is still the Hoosiers' fifth all-time leading scorer. Among Indiana legends previously inducted are John Wooden, Oscar Robertson and the 1954 Milan High team, the inspiration for the movie "Hoosiers."
"It's a great honor," Woodson said. "It means I'm getting older, I guess."
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