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Hawks bludgeon Thunder with historically hot first half, win 136-118

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

As the season winds down, the Atlanta Hawks and Oklahoma City Thunder have their sights on two very different aims for this ending stretch. Atlanta still believes they can make noise in the postseason, whereas the Thunder are focused on player development and foundation building.

To that end, Oklahoma City ran out a starting lineup with four combined seasons of NBA experience prior to 2021-22 and names anonymous to only the most ardent fans of the league.

The Hawks, on the other hand, inserted Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot into their starting lineup as Danilo Gallinari and Jalen Johnson sustained short term setbacks and John Collins remained sidelined. He join the normal quartet of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Clint Capela in the starting squad.

The Hawks came out quickly lighting the net on fire, going 4-for-5 in their first few long range attempts and generally getting whatever they want on the offensive end. Atlanta was largely taking advantage of a jumbled Oklahoma City Thunder and took rebounds 94 feet with little resistance.

The Hawks put up 42 points in the first quarter with relative ease, with 19 points coming from Young and adding four assists to boot. Atlanta nailed 15-of-19 field goals attempted, the best shooting quarter of the season to this point.

Knox made a rare appearance in this one as well and showed a burst of energy, going on a personal 10-0 run with some corner threes and an athletic tip in at the rim.

Bogdan Bogdanovic also got into the action, hitting three triples in a row in the second quarter to help push the Atlanta lead up over 30 at one point in the second quarter. The affair was quickly becoming a laugher before the halftime buzzer had even sounded.

For Young, it was a long bomb from the top of the key that gave him 30 points on 9-of-13 (69.2%) shooting going into halftime.

The Hawks went into the locker room after the second quarter with a season and franchise high 85 points in a half. That figure eclipsed the previous mark of 83 scored in the first half of a December 23, 2020 game against the Chicago Bulls. You may remember that contest as the first game of last season, a 72-game season after the Covid interruption. Knox added 15 points and Bogdanovic added 14 to power the Hawks to a historic half.

Somehow, there was still a second half to play. But Atlanta didn’t let down their guard and rode an aggressive Hunter to a quick offensive start in the third quarter.

The third quarter burst brought Hunter’s total to 17 on the night. While the Thunder were able to hit some shots from long range — 16-for-35 or 45.7% from three — the Hawks were never prevented from finding any shot they fancied on the other end.

Young finished the night with 41 points and eight assists in front of his family near his Norman, Oklahoma home.

Oklahoma City wouldn’t lie down without a fight, however, as late rush brought the lead to under 20 with 6:51 left in the fourth quarter. Atlanta suddenly couldn’t find a bucket with Lou Williams running the show.

But Huerter came alive in the last period, whether it was putting the ball on the deck and getting to the elbow or finding space around the arc to pad the lead for the visitors.

Even with some unsightly execution on the offensive end, the Hawks eventually saw this contest through, 136-118. Huerter finished with 20 points on a tidy 8-for-10 (80%) night from the field. Hunter added 19 points and five rebounds as he continued to find his footing late in the season against a bad defense.

The win brings Atlanta to two games above .500 at 39-37 for the first time since after the win on December 1, 2021 when they were 12-10. The Hawks continue to push for play-in seeding and even a second half slide couldn’t stop them from continuing an upward climb.

Stay tuned.