Hawks show they can rely on backups to keep winning
Saturday night's 93-91 win at Miami was perhaps the most impressive demonstration of the Hawks' depth this season. All-Star center Al Horford stayed home with his wife and newborn son. Starters Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll and top backup Pero Antic were rested.
It was show time for players who often aren't included in coach Mike Budenholzer's rotation.
Jenkins, who reached 20 minutes for only the third time this season, had 12 points and set a career high with seven rebounds.
Forward Mike Muscala matched his career high with four blocks.
Dennis Schroder, who normally plays behind Teague, had a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists. Kent Bazemore started for Carroll and had 15 points, his second-highest total of the season. Elton Brand had eight points and seven rebounds in his first start of the season.
Jenkins pointed to players getting in extra work after Monday's practice as the reason he expected the bench players to have success.
''I see it every day,'' he said.
The depth has helped the Hawks, who play Houston on Tuesday night, lead the Eastern Conference by 10 games. They've stretched the lead by 3 1/2 games since the All-Star break.
It's one thing to have his backups ready for prominent roles. It's another challenge to have starters who are willing to take a night off without disrupting team chemistry.
Budenholzer acknowledged some starters aren't thrilled when asked to sit out a game. He said players know the goals are to be healthy and rested for the playoffs - and to keep all players on the roster sharp.
''Each circumstance is unique,'' Budenholzer said after Monday's practice.
''I think our players are understanding and better trusting and know that hopefully we're doing something that's good for the team and good for them individually and gives their teammates opportunities. There are just a lot of good things that can come from it, and I think they're better at understanding that.''
Horford's day off came less than a week after his wife, Amelia, gave birth to the couple's first child, a boy named Ean.
''You appreciate that coming from your head coach,'' Horford said. ''We work really hard and I feel like he acknowledges that.''
Horford said the win over the Heat ''was great for our team.''
''A lot of our bench guys have been working really hard all season,'' Horford said. ''This was an opportunity for them to step up and play and they did. They were ready to play. That's a credit to them as professionals. They're always staying ready. They're always doing extra things and that's why we had success down there.''
The game provided a morale boost for the reserves.
''When you get out there and you're able to fit in and in some cases stand out, like Saturday night for a couple of our guys, it does a lot for you mentally,'' Bazemore said. ''It keeps you sharp and it keeps you hungry.''
Jenkins said the win made a statement.
''It definitely shows our depth,'' Jenkins said. ''It's a dangerous team when you've got all 15 guys who can play.''