NEW ORLEANS — Instead of giving his sore left ankle more rest, Jeff Teague decided to play and the point guard turned in one of the best games of his career.
Teague tied a career high with 24 points and the Atlanta Hawks won for the fourth time in five games, 94-72 over the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night.
“I didn’t really feel too much pain when I got out there,” Teague said. “I might feel a little bit tomorrow or something, but we just played as a team. We were moving the ball well, guys were getting open shots and just knocking them down.”
Willie Green added 16 points and Marvin Williams 14 for Atlanta, which can close its road trip with a 4-1 record by winning in Toronto on Tuesday night.
“It’s just a road mentality,” Teague said. “It’s tough to beat somebody at their home, so you come in and you have to be fully focused and ready, and we’re doing that.”
The Hawks broke the game open with a 23-4 run during the last half of the third quarter, while New Orleans was in the midst of missing 12 straight shots. Green’s 32-foot 3-pointer to end the period made it 76-52, and Atlanta’s lead got as large as 29 in the fourth quarter as the Hawks handed the Hornets their most lopsided loss this season.
“I don’t think we let them key in on anything. We switched it up with the play calling and things like that,” Teague said. “When you’re moving the ball and making shots like that, it’s hard for anybody to play defense.”
Emeka Okafor scored 13 points for New Orleans, which was as close as 53-48 on Jarrett Jack’s free throws with 5:44 to go in the third before Atlanta took over.
Jack finished with 10 points in the Hornets’ 16th loss in 18 games.
The Hornets, who have lost 10 times by single digits, have been competitive in most of their games and had hoped they were turning the corner after a lopsided victory over Orlando on Friday night, which snapped a nine-game skid. Instead, they responded with one of their worst games of the season, shooting only 37.5 percent (27 of 72).
“Frustrating. Embarrassing. It’s not what the fans deserve. It’s not what the coaches deserve,” Hornets forward Jason Smith said. “We came out sluggish. We didn’t play hard. We didn’t play defense.”
The Hornets shot 5 of 19 in the first quarter and 5 of 20 in the third. They went from 7:06 of the third quarter to 9:35 of the fourth without hitting a field goal (0 for 12) and turned the ball over six times during that stretch.
“It’s certainly one of those games you have to flush the toilet on and get ready for the next one, but I was really disappointed in our effort, especially at home with a day in between games,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “We don’t have enough talent to go out there and play one-on-one basketball. We certainly don’t have enough talent to go out there and not play with effort. That was the frustrating part.”
The Hawks shot 44 percent (36 of 82) and went 12 of 23 on 3-pointers, with Teague hitting all four he attempted. Marvin Williams was 3 of 4 from long range. Atlanta also outrebounded New Orleans 42-36.
Joe Johnson and Ivan Johnson each scored nine points for the Hawks.
Teague left Atlanta’s previous game at Detroit on Friday with a sprained left ankle, but he returned to the starting lineup Sunday and had an immediate effect on the game.
Atlanta raced to a 12-2 lead with Marvin Williams and Teague each hitting 3s and Teague adding a 16-foot jumper. Teague then hit back-to-back 3s on his way to 11 first-quarter points and the Hawks took a 21-point lead barely 9 minutes into the game when Kirk Hinrich’s layup made it 27-6.
Green called Teague’s performance on the sore ankle “very impressive.”
“We’ve been constantly on him about just being aggressive and tonight he did that,” Green said. “He set the tone for us. He does a good job of getting guys involved and sometimes he has to be aggressive. We just want him to be able to do all of that and that’s a lot to ask, but he’s just getting better.”
The Hornets clawed back into the game with an 11-0 run in the second quarter during which Okafor scored five points and capped the surge with a three-point play on an inside basket to make it 33-26.
Williams’ second 3 of the game interrupted the spurt before Okafor scored inside and Gustavo Ayon hit a reverse layup to cut it to 36-30. Atlanta then built its lead back to double digits, closing out the half with a 6-1 mini-run capped by Johnson’s driving floater from the lane to make it 46-35.
Notes: Greivis Vasquez tied a career high with eight assists. ... During New Orleans’ 11-0 run in the second quarter, Green hit a jumper at the shot-clock buzzer that was initially ruled good and overturned on replay. ... The Hornets’ 21-point deficit in the first quarter was at that point the largest deficit for New Orleans this season until it got worse in the second half. ... New Orleans and Atlanta meet only once in this lockout-shortened season. ... The Hornets’ worst loss coming in was by 16 points at Sacramento.