In their first game after the all star break, on Thursday evening in Chicago, the Atlanta Hawks almost managed a victory over the Chicago Bulls despite one of Trae Young’s least efficient performances of the season.
Concern regarding a repeat showing by the star point guard was put to rest Saturday evening as Atlanta cruised to a comfortable 127-100 win over the Toronto Raptors as Young put up his fourth 40+ point, 10+ assist performance of the year. It’s notable that he has also posted 40+ points and nine assists twice this year.
As the Hawks started to pull away in the second quarter the offensive formula was as close as it gets to be completely aligned with its design. Atlanta managed to convert 35-of-52 shots from two-point range, including making 30-of-40 shots in the paint, while also shooting 42% from the three-point line (13-of-31).
Absent John Collins once again, it’s surprising to see them post 127 points while getting just three points from Collins’ replacement starter, Danilo Gallinari. But that they did as they got to the rim at will via lobs to Clint Capela and Okyeka Okongwu.
The Hawks got a bit of revenge versus a Raptors team that had won each of the first two meetings between the teams this season. It was a critical win regardless of prior results as Toronto is one of the teams Atlanta is chasing in the Eastern Conference standings.
“(Toronto) had a big first quarter, but I thought our intensity was really good,” said Hawks head coach Nate McMillan in post game comments.
“We did a good job of continuing with the pressure on the ball,” continued McMillan. “Our bigs did a good job of being up on the screens. All of the things that we talked about we needed to do defensively, getting up and pressuring the ball, weak side being in a tight shift. And then offensively, pushing the ball, keeping the pressure on their defense before they can get down and get set.”
“(Young) put that (Chicago) game on himself and felt that he didn’t play well,” McMillan added about the bounce back performance of his point guard. “He knew that he could play better. It was one of those games where his shot wasn’t falling. I felt that he would come out very aggressive tonight. He did and really established our tempo.”
“We came out aggressive,” responded Young when asked about the team’s offensive performance. “Everybody came out aggressive. Even (Gallinari), who shot 1-for-9, was aggressive for us. Even if he’s not making shots, him being aggressive is big for us.”
It felt like it might be more of the same from the two earlier match ups this season as the Raptors connected on five of their ten shots from the three-point line in the first period on their way to a 37-point output.
Too many times this season Atlanta has seemingly lost their ability to stay connected and work through adversity when it would appear from the start of a game. They’ve been better of recent if still a bit inconsistent.
Toronto also managed 18 points in the paint in the opening frame as Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, and Precious Achiuwa put pressure on the rim with Atlanta trying to sort out how they would pressure the ball without ceding space near the basket.
The Hawks found the right balance along the way in the second quarter and managed to keep grasp of it the rest of the way. After the first 12 minutes of play Toronto managed just 32 points in the paint, on 16-for-35 shooting, and 15 points at the three-point line, on a 5-for-22 effort.
Atlanta’s defensive pressure didn’t lead to turnovers but Toronto was often shooting late in the clock after first and second options were denied. It was one of the better extended stretches of defensive play by the Hawks on the season.
Both games since play resumed after the all star break has included solid defensive play by the Hawks. The Bulls pulled out the win on Thursday evening via tough shot making when it mattered most, as has been the case all season.
On Saturday evening, the difference was that the Hawks looked like a team with the second best offensive rating in the league.
Young led all scorers with 41 points and added 11 assists on a cool 17-for-24 shooting performance from the field. At close of play on Saturday he ranks sixth in the league in scoring and fourth in assists.
Each of the Hawks secondary creators, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, and Bogdan Bodganovic posted 14 points apiece. Hunter also managed four assists and four rebounds.
In reserve play, Okongwu had 17 points and seven rebounds in extended minutes.
For the visitors, Fred VanVleet led Toronto with 24 points and nine assists. Siakam contributed 14 points and Achiuwa 17 points and seven rebounds.
Let’s take a look at some of the action:
The Hawks started with Young on Van Vleet and Huerter on Gary Trent Jr.:
Huerter works to help contain the dribble penetration of Van Vleet before recovering to his man and manages to stay in front.
Atlanta creates a wide open corner three by pushing the ball:
A nice pass by Hunter sets up Huerter for the open attempt.
Young and Hunter catch the Raptors casually setting up to defend a “floppy” set:
The pass over the top leads to an and-one opportunity.
Atlanta uses some “pistol” action to set up Huerter with a chance to attack the middle:
It leads to an open three for Hunter as his man has to help down on Capela.
Toronto kept working to get a switch of Young onto Siakam:
Here Okongwu does well to help on the Siakam drive but loses track, if even for a moment, of his man cutting along the baseline.
On this possession Okongwu attacks with perfect timing:
When Siakam is working to the middle with his left shoulder he is generally looking for a step back in the middle of the lane.
When he turns back to his left shoulder he’s shooting with the right hand from that side. Just excellent timing by Okongwu on the rim help.
Atlanta pushes the pace with numbers and displays some nice ball movement to create a high percentage shot:
Young and Capela get a lob game going in the third quarter:
This was their third connection in just a couple of minutes.
Hunter recognizes the Toronto zone and works the ball to the middle as to collapse the defense:
Which leads to an open corner three for Bogdanovic.
Toronto continues to struggle with their zone:
More of the same as the second unit attacks:
Toronto looks to take one more shot at getting back in the game by extending their defensive pressure:
The Hawks handle the pressure but Gallinari can’t buy a shot.
Young gets points 40 and 41:
And the Hawks would keep control from there.
The Hawks have a key match up with sixth place Boston Celtics in a road match up on Tuesday evening. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 PM ET.