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Hawks and Young show out in win over Bucks to close Abu Dhabi trip

The All-Star point guard put on a show

Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks - NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks notched their second victory of their preseason ended their Abu Dhabi trip with a 118-109 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday afternoon.

Trae Young led the way with 31 points in 19 minutes — behind seven three-pointers — while De’Andre Hunter added 21 points. For the Bucks, Lindell Wigginton scored 16 points.

Heading into this game, we knew that the Hawks’ main starters weren’t going to play as extensively as they did on Thursday, and then prior to the game Hawks head coach Nate McMillan revealed that Dejounte Murray would not play due to back spasms. The Bucks, meanwhile, rested Giannis Antetokounmpo.

This game was a tale of two halves in the sense that the starters played real minutes in the first half and most of the camp invites would get a run in the second half. Trae Young was one such player who didn’t feature in the second half but he made sure to put on a show before he departed.

Young had gotten off to a strong start in the first quarter but it was his work from beyond the arc in the second quarter that got the crowd going.

He first got going with this pull-up three in transition and as shooters in the NBA will tell you: once you get one to go the rest opens up:

Young was able to do serious damage to the Bucks off of switches in the second quarter and this was the beginning of that trend as Jevon Carter switches off Young and Young needs very little daylight to pull the trigger and he does so with good effect here:

On the switch from Bobby Portis this time, Young dances on the perimeter before hitting the contested three:

With Portis again guarding him, Young shows off his unlimited range:

There was no postgame availability from the Hawks as they are immediately returning to Atlanta but if McMillan was speaking postgame I’m sure he would have talked about how unsurprised he was at a shooting clinic like this from Young, who shot 11-of-15 from the field and 7-of-9 from three. He was fantastic offensively and gave the Abu Dhabi crowd the show the NBA would have wished for.

When Young exited the game prior to the end of the first half, it was essentially a lock that he would not play in the second half but in his place we got a glimpse of what was to come in the opening phase of the second half through De’Andre Hunter, who was the Hawks’ other standout in this game.

This play to end the first half was an indicator of what was to come as Hunter drives to the rim and finishes impressively at the rim in traffic:

In transition, Hunter drives from the perimeter, absorbs the contact and finishes at the rim, plus the foul:

Guarded by Pat Connaughton on the wing, Hunter zips by on the drive and finishes at the rim again:

Hunter hasn’t always been this smooth on his drives with his handle and it’s something he wanted to — and has — worked on over the summer and you can see some early returns on that work so far.

I wouldn’t get too far ahead right now but I have enjoyed Hunter’s work so far in the preseason. He’s able to get to his spots and is smooth on his attempts.

Here, Hunter comes off the Clint Capela screen and rises into the jumpshot as Brook Lopez drops back:

Again coming off the Capela screen, Hunter gets to the free throw line and sinks this floater:

Rinse and repeat, only this shot was more contested than the first and Hunter draws the foul on the made shot:

Hunter finished with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 from behind the arc in 20 minutes of action. Hunter has looked smooth offensively and he’s had two strong games in Abu Dhabi and there should be some optimism surrounding his play as the Hawks return to Atlanta.

The other main positive from the Hawks’ point of view was that of AJ Griffin who finally saw some extended court time, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from three in 24 minutes.

Griffin was a little messy inside the arc and defensively but he shone on the perimeter and the main takeaway was just being able to see Griffin play extended minutes and showcase why the Hawks selected him at No. 16 overall.

This three was probably the pick of the bunch in terms of a highlight as Vit Krejci whips a behind-the-back pass to Onyeka Okongwu on the drive, who then kicks the ball out to Griffin who hits the three:

Since Tyrese Martin played in eight minutes on Thursday and got some run in with the starters in the first half, it seems he’s ahead of Griffin for now in the way-too-early Hawks’ rookie wing rotation. Martin didn’t particularly have a strong game and the Hawks could look to see a bit more action of Griffin with the rotation players going forward in the preseason.

Aaron Holiday, meanwhile, stepped into the starting lineup for Murray but didn’t acquit himself as well in this game as he did on Thursday. In fact, many of the Hawks who played in the second half didn’t play especially well and this made the fourth quarter especially tough viewing.

Touching on some aspects from the game, the Hawks did a better job limiting the Bucks on the offensive glass (something McMillan discussed on Thursday) and committed just eight turnovers on the game. Even for it just being preseason, with how many players who featured in the second half who have not played together it was an impressive number from the Hawks in that regard.

There’s not much else to say about this game in reality — the second half was especially rough with no real standouts from the camp invites. But all-in-all, the Hawks should come away feeling satisfied from their trip.

Their main rotation players (minus Murray from the second game and Bogdan Bogdanovic of course) looked healthy and spry and played well, Murray got on well in his first game with the Hawks and AJ Griffin got some good run-time in the second game. Other than the disappointment of not getting Jalen Johnson and Trent Forrest out to Abu Dhabi, the Hawks are in a solid spot so far in their preseason campaign — much better than they were 12 months ago.

The Hawks (2-0) are back in action on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Should be fun. Until next time...