Off of arguably their best win of the season on Sunday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Atlanta Hawks took to the court again on Monday night against the Orlando Magic at State Farm Arena, pulling away in the second half to take the 129-111 victory.
Trae Young and John Collins led the Hawks in scoring with 23 points apiece while Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic both added 20 points. For the Magic, Cole Anthony scored 29 points while Terrance Ross and Franz Wagner added 19 points.
The Hawks are a team that are still trying to find their way this season and adjusting on the fly.
De’Andre Hunter was officially ruled out for eight weeks with a right wrist tendon injury — requiring surgery — and so life for the Hawks without Hunter for the near-future officially began again last night. In his place in the starting lineup, Kevin Huerter started alongside Bogdan Bogdanovic on the wing: a duo that has proven a positive pairing in the past.
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan has been utilizing his rotation a little differently of late, not just in terms of personnel (of course, having to go deeper into it in Hunter’s absence) but how he subs in/out Young, Delon Wright and Lou Williams for example. Young didn’t remain in the game for the majority of the first quarter as he often does, before Wright checked in for two minutes before Young returned to play alongside Williams. The new rotations are something everyone is trying to figure out and it remains see if this is just how McMillan will run his guard rotation from now on.
For the game itself, the Magic hit a number of threes early on to keep pace with the high-scoring Hawks as they made a strong start to the game. While the Magic held the lead for most of the second quarter, the Hawks kept pace in the thanks to free throws. Collins shot 7-of-9 from the line in the second quarter alone but it was Danilo Gallinari who drew a number of fouls in the second quarter to put the Hawks in the bonus for over seven minutes of the second quarter. Once the Hawks took the lead at the end of the second quarter, they would hold it for the rest of the game, stretching the lead to double digits in the third quarter.
Lou Williams has struggled at times this season but played a big role in this game at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter, scoring nine points in the second half, including a two-for-one at the end of the third quarter.
“Lou’s presence on the court is big for our team,” said Young. “He’s always talking, if he makes a mistake he’s making it hard, he’s playing hard. He makes a big difference for our team when he was out there. That was a big momentum play for us. Little things like that you need for your team to win. He was making some very good momentum swings for us.”
Williams was instrumental in reestablishing the Hawks’ double-digit lead in the fourth quarter — a lead that wouldn’t fall below 10 points again as the Hawks — eventually — came through to secure the 129-111 victory.
On the second night of a back-to-back and without not only Hunter — Huerter was forced to sit the second half out with hamstring tightness — Nate McMillan praised both his first and second unit for lifting them through fatigue.
“I thought our guys stayed with it,” said McMillan. “We could tell they were running with heavy legs in that first half and we really needed our bench. I thought our guys came through tonight, both that first and second unit.”
The Hawks’ bench has struggled this season and while they’re 20th in scoring per game, they rank 29th in field goal percentage. Last night, the Hawks’ bench scored 39 points.
“They held that lead,” said Bogdanovic of the bench. “They always give us that advantage off the bench, especially tonight Lou and Gallo and Cam. On both ends of the floor we got a lot of good defensive stops, good defensive possessions and we know we need them and I’m happy for them.”
“Our second unit came in and really helped us big-time tonight,” echoed Young.
It wasn’t just the bench that came through for the Hawks. All starters played really solid games and there were season-highs to be had from both Bogdanovic and Capela (20 points each).
Capela in particular played a very strong game, grabbing 16 rebounds to go along with his 20 points, as well as dishing three assists, procuring two steals and blocking two shots.
“Clint was great, he was really great,” said McMillan. “ Last night he had the challenge of guarding Giannis and keeping him in front. Tonight, they have spread players but they play fast, they really try and push the tempo early because they knew we’re coming off of a back-to-back. They got to our legs in that first half but we got our second wind. Clint did what he always does for us: anchor our defense, defending the paint and rebounding the basketball. Both he and Trae were connecting on the offensive end of the floor. His conditioning is getting much better but he was solid the entire night.”
“Clint was just aggressive,” added Young of Capela. “He was more focused around the rim. Instead of getting it up quick, I think he was focused on making his touches around the rim. It really helped us tonight.”
Capela has been a little slow to start the season but has looked a lot more like himself of late, particularly during this back-to-back.
“Still some work to do on my body but overall I definitely feel better,” said Capela postgame.
Collins also played a strong game, impacting the game on both ends of the floor. Collins scored 23 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and a career-high 11-of-14 from the free throw line (career highs in makes and attempts from the free throw line). In addition, one thing that continues to stand out with Collins is his defensive impact near the rim.
This was from the first place of the game where Collins impacts Wagner’s attempt near the rim:
As Anthony comes off of the pick-and-roll, Collins switches onto the drive and his contest affects Anthony’s missed shot:
Collins challenged a number of shots like this last night and his play on both ends of the floor just highlights his continued growth and development: he is having a great season so far.
Huerter, sadly, didn’t get to see a lot of time last night in his new role, playing 16 first half minutes before being ruled out of the second half with hamstring tightness. Solomon Hill started the second half in his place.
“Kevin felt like something was about to pull in the first half,” said McMillan of Huerter postgame. “His hamstring got a little tight. They tried to loosen him up during halftime and it didn’t feel right, so he couldn’t go. We’ll check on him. I just spoke with him, he said it felt a little tight, he didn’t want to pull it.”
The Hawks are back in action on Wednesday, so time will tell if Huerter is ready by then. If not, I would imagine Hill starts (with McMillan having said on multiple occasions he likes Cam Reddish coming off the bench).
For the game itself, in reality, the Hawks were never really threatened in this spot. The ‘trap-game’ was a possibility — coming off of the high of the Milwaukee win in a back-to-back — but the Hawks took care of business behind a strong team performance (shooting 55% from the field, 46% from three and a season-high 32 assists) as they look to get their season back on track after their early foibles on the road.
The Hawks (6-9) look to continue their winning trend as they host the Boston Celtics (7-7) at State Farm Arena on Wednesday night.
Until next time...