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Hawks guards with Indy ties outclassing Indiana

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Jeff Teague’s Indianapolis roots are deeper than those of Shelvin Mack.

Born and raised here, Teague, the soft-spoken former Pike High School player, demonstrates little or no emotion while haunting his hometown team as a starting guard for the Atlanta Hawks.

Mack, a vital cog in Butler University’s runs to the NCAA Final Four in 2010 and 2011, has been equally impressive in a reserve role.

Both players stuck it to Indiana in a big way during Atlanta’s 101-93 victory Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Teague’s 28 points were a career playoff high for the 6-foot-2 guard, whose swift drives to the bucket complement an outstanding perimeter shooting stroke.

The 6-3 Mack supplied eight points, three assists and a steal off the bench as Atlanta took a 1-0 lead in the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

Afterward, Teague calmly shrugged off any such notion that returning to Indy was special. At one point he went as far as indicating his parents usually don’t even come to the games.

The more vocal and outgoing of the two, Mack, himself a product of the Midwest (Lexington, KY), looks forward to trips to Indianapolis.

“I like coming here. It’s two-and-a-half hours from home. My mom gets to come up and watch me play, and I also get to see all my friends. (On Friday) a lot of us went out to dinner, and it was the first time we had been together since the (2011) Final Four. It’s great to come back here and have those kind of memories.”

Selected 19th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, Teague’s growth as a professional basketball player over the past five seasons is too good of a story to ignore.

Teague earned his keep as a reserve guard as a rookie, averaging 3.2 points a game. From there the numbers blossomed — 5.2 in 2010-11, 12.6 the following season and 14.6 in 2012-13.

This season Teague averages 16.5 points to go along with other career-best statistics such as his 6.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds.

“Going from not playing at all my first year to now is just a blessing,” said Teague, whose 14 third-quarter points proved huge as the Hawks broke free from a 50-50 halftime deadlock to go up 80-66 through three quarters.

“All year we’ve encouraged Jeff to be aggressive. He knows how important he is to us,” said Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer. “When he’s aggressive he just creates opportunities for himself and creates opportunities for his teammates.”

Mack, who turns 24 on Tuesday, appears to have finally found a home with the Hawks.

Drafted by the Washington Wizards in the second round in 2011, Mack was waived the following October and wound up a D-League player for the Maine Red Claws.

Signed again by the Wizards and then waived two weeks later, Mack returned to the Red Claws before being signed to consecutive 10-day contracts by the Philadelphia 76ers.

In March 2013 he signed for 10 days with Atlanta and has been with the team ever since. The 7.5 points Mack averaged during this past regular season are a career-high, as are his 3.7 assists.

The rock star treatment Mack and his Butler teammates received a few years ago while the Bulldogs were achieving unprecedented March Madness heights continues to linger.

Mack says he’s still warmly received locally even though he now suits up for an enemy NBA franchise.

“I get a lot of support here, even during (pregame) warmups,” Mack said. “It shows everything you did, they appreciate it. It feels good.”

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