The Atlanta Hawks hit the road again on Saturday, taking on the Memphis Grizzlies in the team’s second game of the 2020-21 regular season. While the two teams battled twice in the preseason, the stakes were considerably higher in this matchup, though both squads faced high-profile injury absences with players like Danilo Gallinari, Clint Capela, Jaren Jackson Jr. and De’Anthony Melton sidelined. After a 48-minute battle, the Hawks picked up their second straight victory, outlasting the Grizzlies by a 122-112 margin.
The Hawks began the night slowly on the offensive end, scoring only two points in almost four minutes. Atlanta’s defense kept them engaged, but Memphis did spurt to nine straight points to take an eight-point lead at 16-8.
The visitors missed their first eight shots from three-point range, but Kevin Huerter provided a spark with ten (very) quick points that were badly needed.
Kev is cookin'— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) December 26, 2020
10 points off the bench so far! pic.twitter.com/JTRayX8eTZ
Huerter and Two-Way big man Nathan Knight keyed a 17-2 overall run that included 12 straight points for Atlanta, with Knight burying a three-pointer for his first NBA points.
Though the Hawks shot only 44 percent from the floor and 3-of-13 from three-point range, Atlanta led by five points after the first quarter. Much of that was traced to solid defense, and the Hawks took care of the ball well with only three turnovers.
The offense found its footing a bit early in the second quarter, with some of that attributable to the return of John Collins. Collins picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and sat for a long time, but he made an immediate impact when back on the floor.
The Grizzlies hung around for the rest of the first half, taking the lead briefly, but the Hawks did manage to enter the break with a two-point lead. Atlanta’s shot quality was solid overall, but the trio of Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish shot just 6-of-24 from the field and 1-of-10 from three-point distance. Given those shooting struggles from three perimeter starters, the Hawks were in a favorable position, and they held the Grizzlies to just 5-of-20 from three-point range.
Memphis had the advantage early in the third quarter, hitting back-to-back threes to take the lead, but the Hawks managed to counter. Young found Collins for a dunk that forced the Grizzlies to call a timeout, and Young had nine points in the first five minutes of the second half.
Grizzlies tried to trap Cam.— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 26, 2020
Having Trae as a release valve is a luxury item. pic.twitter.com/ndCuF2QKPx
The positive play continued, with Huerter hitting his seventh straight shot to give Atlanta a seven-point advantage. While building that lead, De’Andre Hunter got into the act with highlight-worthy play on both ends.
Here.— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 26, 2020
Enjoy 45 seconds of De'Andre Hunter doing stuff. pic.twitter.com/hQnyjpV5X5
And, in a continuation of the first half, Knight threw down a dunk out of a stoppage, generating a three-point play that got everyone excited.
The Hawks led by as many as eight points in the period and, while the Grizzlies did put together an 11-1 run to retake the lead, there was plenty to take away in a positive light. That included the play of Young, who scored nine points and generated five assists in the third quarter alone.
Trae Young’s vision: + pic.twitter.com/RXUIsGtKmP— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) December 26, 2020
The Hawks began the fourth quarter with a finishing kick, scoring the first eight points to take control of the festivities. Memphis did respond, taking a one-point lead while Young received a quick rest, but Hunter scored five straight points to give Atlanta a 108-104 lead with four minutes remaining.
Down the stretch, it was the Trae Young variety hour in the best way, as the All-Star guard scored eight points in about 1:45 of clock time to put the game away.
This pass fake from Young was sorcery. It got Valancuinas to run out and froze Allen on a critical bucket. pic.twitter.com/Lfw4iRBfXE— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) December 27, 2020
Young set the pace for the Hawks, scoring 36 points and converting 15-of-17 from the free throw line. He also dished out a game-high nine assists and made play after play in crunch time.
Elsewhere, Knight had a career-best evening with 14 points in only nine minutes, and Huerter was fantastic, scoring 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting with 4-of-5 from long distance. Hunter added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, with Collins reaching double figures in both points (13) and rebounds (10).
The Hawks will return to action on Monday evening for the team’s home opener against the Detroit Pistons.