The Atlanta Hawks entered Sunday night’s matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans coming off a narrow two-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. The Hawks are playing pretty well on the offensive end of the floor since the All-Star break thanks to star rookie Trae Young and highly touted second year man John Collins. Atlanta attempted to continue that trend tonight against Anthony Davis and New Orleans.
The first quarter started off very slowly for the Hawks as they scored just four points in the first 3:30 of action while the Pelicans started off with three consecutive three-pointers (and a free throw from Elfrid Payton) to quickly take the lead.
Action stalled on both ends of the floor following the 8:23 mark until there were under 7 minutes remaining, when Davis started exchanging scoring blows with Taurean Prince, who did a great job of facilitating for the Hawks after Trae Young exited the game.
Late in the quarter, it was all John Collins, who scored six straight points for Atlanta and really kept the Hawks relevant in the game as the Pelicans continued to put pressure on the defense. New Orleans couldn’t miss from three-point land as they went 6-of-8 from beyond the arc to help create a seven-point lead at the end of one, but the Hawks found themselves still in the game down 33-26.
The second quarter was much better (from an offensive point of view) for the Hawks. Young was able to make his way to the line to open the scoring and was followed by a three-point make from Prince. For the Pelicans, Kenrich Williams and Darius Miller were great in the early going of the second period, when not much else was going right for New Orleans.
The Hawks began to turn on the offense around the 7:28 mark, when their big run began. Prince started off with a driving lay-in, which was followed by a three-pointer from Collins. Dewayne Dedmon, who returned from injury today, made a quick hook shot over Davis after a really nice pass by Prince and then the Kevin Huerter show began.
Huerter began with a three-point hit after a beautiful up-fake. He was then able to knife his way into the lane on the following possession to hit a tough lay-in over Julius Randle with a foul called on Dairis Bertans for a three-point play.
The Pelicans responded with back to back three-pointers from their superstar (Davis), but Huerter was on a mission as he drove strong to the basket for a right handed finger-roll. The scoring continued with a running jump shot in the lane against Davis, but things weren’t just done there.
Huerter polished off his 17-point (!) quarter (on 7-of-8 shooting and 2-of-3 from deep) with another wonderful driving basket and with six seconds remaining, knocked down a long three that momentarily gave the lead to Atlanta before Frank Jackson went coast-to-coast for a lay-up at the horn.
The Hawks watched the Pelicans play absolutely out of their minds in the first half as they seemingly made every shot from distance that they took, so it had to feel really good at the half to only be down a single point at the break. All of this was thanks to Kevin Huerter and his 19 first-half points, of course, along with John Collins, who added 15 more.
Trae Young didn’t have a great first half, but he’s been noticeably slow lately so it’s possible all of these minutes are beginning to catch up with him. After Atlanta was only able to score 6 points in the first five minutes of the game, they went nuclear with 56 percent shooting and 59 points in the remaining 19 minutes of the half.
The high energy levels continued for the Hawks into the second half, as Huerter was able to continue his great night on a reverse lay-up to break the seal for Atlanta. After two Collins’ free throws, Huerter made his way up to the 24-point mark with another three-point hit off a nice pass from Young.
New Orleans’ offensive effort was not bad as they were able to work their way inside out with a Randle lay-up after another Davis shot from deep. However, the Pelicans defense was not very good (really it was awful) tonight and the Hawks just continued to get whatever they wanted, particularly in the paint.
Late in the third, Atlanta nailed back-to-back three pointers from Jaylen Adams and DeAndre’ Bembry (along with an and-1 lay-in by Bembry) and were able to take an 11-point lead momentarily before Solomon Hill nailed a three pointer right at the end to narrow the lead to 8 at the end of three.
Things were looking really good going into the fourth period as the Hawks were able to score 94 points without a single field goal from their primary source of offense (Young).
In the final period there was a noticeable absence of Anthony Davis to start and the Hawks took full advantage, going inside to Collins via a highlight alley-oop thrown by Huerter.
Randle was doing his best to keep the Pelicans in the game with two quick three-pointers, but the Hawks got some more great minutes by Huerter late.
After coming back in the game around the midway point of the fourth, Huerter immediately was able to get in the lane and find Alex Len for a tough lay-in. Around the three-minute mark, Huerter curled off a screen for a dagger three-pointer to take his point total to 27, two off his career high and three off his first career 30-point game.
From there on, the final result was not in doubt with the Hawks up double digits and the Pelicans running out of time. Huerter had a chance to tie his career high with a floater in the lane, but had it roll off the rim.
Atlanta clinched it with a three-pointer from Kent Bazemore at the 36-second mark as the Hawks went up 126-113.
Kevin Huerter was absolutely the reason Atlanta won this game with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting (4-of-7 from three). Trae Young, despite having an atrocious night shooting the ball, still managed to finish with a double-double of 10 points and 10 assists. John Collins was also fantastic (per usual) with 23 points and 10 boards.
The Hawks will be back in action on Wednesday night as they get a much needed break over the next two days before playing the Grizzlies at State Farm Arena.