The Atlanta Hawks have righted the ship on their current five-game road excursion winning back-to-back contests, most recently with a 115-108 victory over the resurgent Utah Jazz. It brought their record back above .500 on the season at 27-26 and their record away from State Farm Arena to 14-15.
They got another strong performance from Trae Young who had 27 points, six assists, four rebounds, and two steals. Dejounte Murray had a solid if unspectacular showing with 13 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and three steals.
But the game still came down to the end with the Hawks’ 22-point lead being whittled down to five points in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter.
Atlanta kept its distance before De’Andre Hunter’s dagger which he spoke on afterward.
De’Andre Hunter questions Utah Jazz’s late-game defense against Atlanta Hawks
“They crazy for leaving me open,” Hunter told Bally Sports Southeast Hawks reporter Lauren Jbara. “That’s what was going through my head…We played great on both ends tonight. You know, they made shots but we just kept playing. You know, they made a little comeback in the fourth quarter but we kept playing.”
Hunter – who finished the evening with 26 points, four rebounds, three assists, and one steal – notched 19 points in the second half with seven coming in the fourth quarter alone.
But his 12-point effort (on 4-for-6 shooting, 2-for-3 3P) in the third also stood out.
The Hawks naturally came out of the game leading in several key categories including being plus-6 in the turnover margin and plus-10 in paint points.
“That was a goal of ours, just to be aggressive – shoot more free throws. Get guys to the line because we have big guys, guys that can attack. So we just wanted to get to the line as much as possible and live in the paint.”
Atlanta shot 23 free throws in this one, just the 20th time this season they have gotten to the line at least that many times a scenario that has now seen them go 11-9 this season. The Hawks rank 26th in the league this season in games with at least 20 free-throw attempts, per Stathead.com.
Another advantage for the Hawks came on the glass where they narrowly edged Utah 52-50.
“It’s just energy, rebounding is energy, boxing out. They have some big guys…7-footers. So, it’s a group effort. We all just have to box out and be a group.”
To Okongwu’s point, the Hawks are 14-7 when they win the battle on the boards meaning they are just 12-18 when they don’t. They are a smallish team and having Clint Capela — nine points, 13 rebounds, one assist, and one block — healthy will always be a boost.
That is still more than enough reason to keep the energy up more consistently.
Up next is a battle against the Nuggets who may or may not have the services of two-time MVP Nikola Jokic or versatile defender Aaron Gordon, both of whom would be big losses for Denver but a boon for Atlanta.