It was the best of times and then it was the worst of times for the Atlanta Hawks (7-4). No, it was not some revered literary work, it was a basketball game. A loss to the Utah Jazz, to be specific, and one they surely feel they let slip away. They led by five points to start the fourth quarter and by as much as 10 points in the game.
Once they surrendered the lead with 9:32 to go, however, the rest was essentially procedural as they never got it back and ultimately fell 125-119.
For what it’s worth, Utah is the top team in the Western Conference at, now, 10-3.
After the game, Hawks star Dejounte Murray took to the podium to discuss what exactly happened. Murray – who had 26 points, six rebounds, and five assists – was quick to point fingers but in the right way.
Atlanta Hawks star singles out rival coach after loss
Murray logged his seventh straight outing with at least 20 points and his ninth in 11 tries this season. The one-time All-Star is averaging 27.3 points on 55.1% true shooting with 8.5 assists, 5.8 boards, and 2.2 steals over his last four games. But, after this one, he had to give credit where credit was due.
At the top.
“First of all, I want to give credit to [Jazz head coach] Will Hardy,” offered Murray when asked about Jazz star Lauri Markkanen. “I know the confidence he put in people. Because he once put it in me as an assistant. I knew one day when he got a head coaching job that players would love to play for him. You could just see at the beginning of the year, they was just saying, ‘they’re not going to be good — rebuilding’.”
Murray spent five years with Hardy who was an assistant during the guard’s time in San Antonio on the Spurs.
He also gave Markkanen — who had a season-high 32 points while going 6-for-8 from downtown — his due.
“They got a bunch of guys with a chip on their shoulder.”
Hardy’s hiring was the first supposed tell-tale that the Jazz was going into a rebuild. Then they traded Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell and many had them as one of the top contenders in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.
Instead, they are two wins ahead of and one full game up on the teams sitting 2-4.
“They was comfortable, confident, and they scored the ball,” Murray said. “I think that’s really what we take from it. We weren’t ready, and they took advantage of it and they just kept going. They didn’t stop.”
Murray also said that he felt the Jazz’s aggressiveness helped wake the Hawks up. Asked about the disparity in three points shooting – Utah was plus-11 in attempts – Murray said the Hawks cannot afford to turn down open looks when they come.
The Hawks shot 8-for-28 from beyond the arc in this game – Murray went 1-for-5 himself – while the Jazz shot over 43%.
Entering the evening, the Hawks led the NBA in defensive 3P%.
Perhaps fortunately for the Hawks, they don’t have to wait long for their chance to get back in the win column. They face Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in the first of a two-game miniseries on Thursday.