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Young, Johnson star in first half as Hawks collect second preseason victory

A good night’s work for the Atlanta Hawks, who move to 2-0 on the preseason.

Memphis Grizzlies v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks once again enjoyed being on the right side of a narrow one-point game, emerging as victors in Thursday night’s contest against the Memphis Grizzlies at State Farm Arena, 103-102.

Trae Young led the Hawks with 20 points in the first half, and Jalen Johnson added 14 points. For the Grizzlies, GG Jackson scored 20 points while Santi Aldama added 22 points.

In typical preseason affair, both sides had key players sitting this game out — for the Hawks De’Andre Hunter, Saddiq Bey and Onyeka Okongwu all missed this contest. For the Grizzlies, the suspended Ja Morant was of course absent along with Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane Marcus Smart, Luke Kennard, Brandon Clarke and Derrick Rose.

The Hawks’ starting unit featured only in the first half before sitting the rest of this one but not before Trae Young scored 13 points in the second quarter en route to 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 4-of-7 from three. The three-point shooting in particular is encouraging to see from Young, especially given how he had struggled from the perimeter for a large part of the beginning of last season.

Jalen Johnson also enjoyed a good game, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field, scoring in a variety of ways including the three-point shot:

And at the rim:

Johnson’s confidence in some of his playmaking, movement off the dribble, and even in a post-up situation are encouraging to see, and you can already see some of his growth/growing into this expanded role for him. His pick-and-roll play with Young will still need work (Johnson’s only unsuccessful shot coming from a lob from Young) but it’s the kind of relationship that takes time to adjust.

Of the other members of the starting lineup, Bogdan Bogdanovic (two points on 1-of-3 shooting) and Dejounte Murray (seven points on 3-of-8 shooting) had somewhat quiet games, but Clint Capela was really active defensively in pick-and-rolls, getting his hands in for a couple of steals (the Hawks procuring 16 steals on the night).

The bench/end of the bench players got to enjoy an extended run in good circumstances after the Hawks had built up a double-digit lead in the first half.

Mouhamed Gueye and Bruno Fernando were active in their own right — Gueye had a good offensive night, scoring 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, 2-of-2 from three to go with six rebounds and three assists. Fernando was a bit off offensively but defensively his presence was certainly felt, coming up with four blocks.

Fernando and Gueye combined sweetly on this possession, Fernando feeding Gueye on the cut who finishes with the dunk, plus the foul:

Fellow rookie Kobe Bufkin — despite shooting 5-of-14 from the field — had some good moments last night too. A couple of threes, a couple of nice drives, and once he gets into that initial space on his drives, he can do something with that — and it was good to see Bufkin display that. The percentages, look, for rookies they’re usually a little rough especially to begin.

Looking elsewhere, A.J. Griffin and Miles Norris struggled to make impacts — with Griffin, there were a couple of instances where you’d like to see Griffin to shoot the ball but sometimes is a little dribble-happy off of a fake and he looks to go to that spin move, which can be effective, but I fear sometimes easily telegraphed at times.

Garrison Mathews, I thought, looked excellent last night — 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting, 3-of-3 from three and 3-of-4 from the line. The shooting and efficiency you obviously love (not sustainable of course), but it was his movement — he had a nice quick step off three-point line for an opportunity and he also moved the ball well too. He was enjoyably to watch last night, one of the more impressive players off the bench/in the second half.

Mathews turned down an opportunity or two himself to set up Seth Lundy, who didn’t shoot well (2-of-7 from the field, 1-of-6 from three) but hit some timely shots late on and produced an excellent block late on when this was a close affair after the Grizzlies took the lead behind an 16-3 run. A layup from Norris proving to be the winning basket, but the block from Lundy a highlight to help the Hawks secure their second one-point victory of the preseason.

Overall, there’s still a lot to see unfold lineup-wise, and the pick-and-roll coverage is interesting to monitor at this point (really interested to see more of Capela and Okongwu in particular on that front, as well as Young/Murray). And Hawks head coach Quin Snyder is going to continue to keep everyone guessing on which of Johnson/Bey will start once De’Andre Hunter finally features.

About the bench, it would be great to see more Garrison Mathews — even at the back end of last season I feel as though the Hawks didn’t get to see the best of him and perhaps last night might serve as a springboard for him in Atlanta. Outside of that, it’s about Bufkin, Gueye, and Lundy simply seeing more time on the court because once the season starts it will not be as plentiful.

It was a solid victory — preseason victories don’t mean a massive amount (and Memphis had very few of their regular roster in action), but it was good to see the bench unit find a response in them once Memphis went on their fourth quarter run and see out the game.

The Hawks (2-0) make the trip to College Park and the Gateway Center for a Saturday afternoon tilt against the ever-entertaining New Orleans Pelicans.

Should be a fun encounter.

Until next time...