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Hawks secure fourth straight victory in a balanced effort against Pelicans

Atlanta Hawks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks secured their fourth consecutive win as they defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 123-105 in a road game on Saturday night.

In a true team effort, seven Hawks players scored in double figures, with Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, and Jalen Johnson all surpassing the 20-point mark.

The Hawks initially found themselves trailing at the end of the first quarter, primarily due to self-inflicted mistakes. Despite hindering the Pelicans offensively, a couple of steals and easy scores allowed Herb Jones to give the Pelicans an early lead.

However, the Hawks didn’t lose their composure despite the sluggish start. Trae Young had a challenging start to the game, but it was evident that the Pelicans had game-planned to stop him, often applying defensive pressure beyond the three-point line. Jalen Johnson had another strong start, and Saddiq Bey led the team with 10 points after the first quarter.

Notably, Garrison Mathews saw his first rotation minutes of the season early in the game, checking in midway through the first quarter. However, he was unable to make a field goal attempt in his four minutes of play. AJ Griffin logged his first DNP of the season.

As the second quarter began, the Hawks were eight points behind, largely due to careless mistakes that allowed the Pelicans to score easily in transition. Bogdan Bogdanovic attempted several shots, finishing the game 4-for-14 from the field and 2-for-10 from three. Despite the low percentage, he took good, high quality shots throughout the game.

While the Pelicans initially found success focusing on Trae Young on screens, the Hawks made a noteworthy adjustment.

With all the focus on Young, Johnson rolled to the basket and delivered a great pass to the cutting Capela. His ability to play under control and avoid the offensive charge call is noteworthy. Trae Young had turned the ball over multiple times in the same situation, but the Hawks came with a plan of attack, likely thanks to Quin Snyder. Though he was contained early, Williamson was able to find some life in the second quarter. The Hawks continued to do well in defending him, especially Clint Capela. His help defense was crucial at multiple points throughout the game in what was an impressive performance.

Late in the second quarter, De’Andre Hunter briefly exited the game with a right pinky finger injury but returned after halftime. The Hawks outscored the Pelicans 26-25 in the second quarter, and Young continued to create opportunities for his teammates, including a potential assist as time expired.

In the third quarter, the Hawks turned up the heat, with Young scoring 11 points, including an incredible runner from downtown.

Jalen Johnson remained impressive, and his presence on the court injected energy into the team. He and Onyeka Okongwu connected on another lob, showcasing their chemistry. The Hawks dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Pelicans 41-23, with Okongwu even hitting his first three-pointer of the season.

Rookie Jordan Hawkins made an impact for the Pelicans, knocking down four threes in attempt to keep his team in the game. However, the Hawks consistently strung together defensive stops and scored when needed.

Trae Young and Dejounte Murray displayed excellent chemistry, which bodes well for the team’s future.

In the fourth quarter, the game was never in question, and the Hawks continued to control the proceedings, winning the quarter 29-22 and outscoring the Pelicans 70-45 in the second half.

This game showcased the Hawks as a more complete team this season, with contributions from various players rather than relying on one individual. Trae Young, despite a slow start, finished with 22 points and 12 assists, emphasizing the team’s focus on winning as a collective effort. Young stated, “We don’t really worry about who’s taking over a game or who’s the leading scorer that game. We just want to win.”

Jalen Johnson had another outstanding game in his Most Improved Player campaign, recording 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists. Capela, Murray, Okongwu, Bey, and Bogdanovic also contributed with double-digit scoring. De’Andre Hunter’s contributions, despite minimal scoring, were crucial to stifling the Pelicans defensively.

The most promising aspect of this victory is that the Hawks didn’t rely on a single standout performance or exceptional three-point shooting. Instead, they played excellent team basketball and shared the ball to create quality scoring opportunities. Their dominance on the offensive boards and impressive defensive rotations highlights their string of impressive performances this season, breaking records due to their collective teamwork.

Adding to that, the Hawks outrebounded the Pelicans by 17 and secured 10 more second-chance points. After a few lapses in the first and second quarter, they successfully limited fastbreak opportunities.

All in all, we are witnessing a team that is more connected than in years past. As Snyder put it, “One of the things that stands out to me right now is not just Trae and DJ, but, you know, it’s visible with them. When Trae threw that long pass, DJ is saying, ‘I should’ve had it,’ and Trae is saying, ‘I should’ve thrown a better pass.’” He highlighted that even though shots weren’t falling, the Hawks were lifting each other up and encouraging one another to keep shooting.

After dropping their first two games, the last four have been exactly what fans expected entering the season. The Hawks will journey to Oklahoma City on Monday night to face the Thunder.