The Atlanta Hawks continued their home stand Tuesday night at State Farm Arena against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder and former Hawk Dennis Schröder. The team’s home venue was all decked out with the Hawks’ 50th anniversary court and Atlanta was ready to go in their throwback uniforms, as they unveiled the baby blue jerseys for the first time this season. In the end, the baby blues were a winner for the Hawks; they walked off of their home court with a massive 142-126 victory, featuring the team’s best offensive performance of the season.
Atlanta was without backup point guard Jeremy Lin and starting center Dewayne Dedmon in this contest, which elevated Jaylen Adams and Omari Spellman, respectively, into those key roles. Taurean Prince is still making his return from injury and was limited to 13 minutes, in line with head coach Lloyd Pierce’s stated 15-minute restriction.
The Hawks did not start out with anything earth-shattering, but were able to hold their own against a very stout Thunder squad. John Collins and Trae Young were heavily involved early on and that is probably the combination that Hawk fans want to see leading the team.
For Oklahoma City, Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook are always quite the combination and Adams was the centerpiece early as the Hawks struggled to defend him with their depleted backcourt.
On the other end of the court, it was Atlanta’s big three (of sorts) that led the way, as Kevin Huerter began to join in on the offensive end along with Collins and Young.
At the end of the first quarter, the Hawks were down, but definitely not out of it with their offense looking solid, taking a 29-25 deficit into the second quarter.
In the second period, the Hawks decided to go unconscious from the field, with Taurean Prince getting things started with a couple of quick jumpers that had the Hawks back to a tie. Then came the lob showcase courtesy of Omari Spellman and Collins, who hit his first 11 shots and thoroughly dominated the paint on the offensive end.
Although the Hawks largely dominated the second quarter, the Thunder were anything but finished. Atlanta had a pretty sizable lead of 18 points with just under a minute remaining in the half, but managed to have an atrocious final 45 seconds that resulted in the Thunder only being down 11 points at the half, which seemed like a bit of a letdown after the Hawks were in control for most of the quarter.
The third quarter was also not the Hawks best work, as their offense from the second did not translate after halftime. Collins carried his team through the first three minutes of the third, scoring the opening five points of the half for Atlanta.
For Oklahoma City, Westbrook began to take over, scoring on repeat with his patented mid-range shots. Late in the quarter, Schröder entered the game and continued the solid Thunder point guard play with a three-pointer and a few solid drives to the cup.
Vince Carter entered the game late in the third and sunk two giant three-pointers and a layup to help steady the ship. Even after being outscored 41-27 in the third, the Hawks had to feel fortunate to only be down 100-97 going into the final frame.
In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, it was evident that the Hawks wanted to win this game. Pierce was audible in his requests for his team to stay focused and they responded in a big way.
Young got things going with a shot from distance and did not stop there. After a quick floater from the rookie that ended up resulting in an and-one opportunity, he then picked up his double-double assisting on an Spellman three-pointer.
Daniel Hamilton made an impact in his fourth quarter minutes playing some solid defense and hitting a crucial three-pointer. DeAndre’ Bembry was another role player who gave the Hawks some gigantic minutes coming down the stretch including two big steals in the final three minutes to seal it.
In the end, it was a fantastic performance from the Atlanta Hawks, especially on the offensive end. The home team’s 142 points is a season-high watermark and a season-worst defensively for Oklahoma City, who entered the night as the top defensive team in the league. Atlanta’s varied offensive attack was lethal throughout the night as they put together a pair of 45-point quarters in the second and fourth. The long-term vision for this Hawks team is to be an offensive juggernaut, but nobody thought Tuesday would be the night to show what they could do in such a big way. Nobody knows what the future holds, but it would surprise nobody if this game is the Hawks’ best performance of the 2018-19 season.
Collins led the way for Atlanta with 26 points on 12-for-14 shooting, flashing his trademark energy around the rim on the offensive end. Young notched another impressive double-double with 24 points and 11 assists on 8-for-17 from the floor. In total, the Hawks posted 36 assists on 56 made field goals, their second-highest passing output of the year and their eighth game with at least 30 assists on the year. Everybody got in on the action, with all ten Hawks dishing out at least one assist on the night. That theme continued in the scoring column, as seven Hawks hit double figures in points in a truly team-first performance.
Alex Len rounded out the Hawks’ 20-point scorers with 24 off the bench in the backup center role, in addition to his work on the glass with 11 rebounds. Len’s defense in the paint was critical throughout the game and helped to stymy perhaps the best offensive rebounder in the league, as Steven Adams brought in just two offensive boards on the night.
The Hawks will take this win into a three day break before a big matchup with the Boston Celtics on Saturday at State Farm Arena.