The Atlanta Hawks won their second consecutive game as they triumphed over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, 106-104.
Dejounte Murray led the way with 26 points, as well as the buzzer-beater, with Trae Young adding 18 points and 12 assists. For the Magic, Paolo Banchero scored 26 points and Wendell Carter Jr., added 18 points.
Another game between the two Southeast Division clubs, another very tight affair — 20 lead changes, 20 game ties, no lead larger than seven points and it all came down to the very last possession, a fitting end for how these two sides have played together this season.
As always, let’s take a look at how this game was settled down the stretch in this close affair.
We’ll start with Banchero retaking the lead for the Magic as he gets inside the paint and scores at the rim:
Jalen Johnson is perhaps beaten a little easily here and it resulted in one of the few makes for Banchero in this game.
Young responds as he draws what feels like the 50th foul from Jalen Suggs in this season-series, resulting in free throws:
No issues at the free throw line in the clutch for Young last night, he dispatches the pair to give the Hawks the lead again.
The Magic respond as they should: putting Young through the pick-and-roll but the guard screen from Markelle Fultz isn’t enough to create the switch and Johnson is able to remain with Banchero and contest the shot, which is missed:
The Hawks got many opportunities on their next possession, beginning with a missed corner three from Saddiq Bey, the loose ball is fought for, Murray’s drive is missed, Johnson’s attack at the rim is also missed and the ball finally ends back in the hands of Murray who hits the floater:
The efforts of Onyeka Okongwu shouldn’t go unnoticed here: some good reads, good passes, fought for the rebounds...a great all around effort from Okongwu here to give the Hawks the chances they needed, and they eventually took advantage.
After a timeout, a Fultz basket brings the Hawk lead down to one point but Young would run this back up to three after drawing a bump from Suggs sends him to the free throw line:
Poor from Suggs here on the perimeter, especially while in the bonus.
The Hawks do 99% of the hard work defensively on the next possession as Bey does a great job contesting Banchero as the clock winds down but a foul from Young on Carter Jr. spoils the good work done up to that point:
Tough break for the Hawks here, and they had used — and lost — their challenge poorly earlier in the game which left them no choice but to swallow this one, and Carter Jr., splits the pair.
Young again gets back to the line as he draws another foul out on the perimeter, this time from Chuma Okeke:
Another poor foul from the Magic to commit a foul of this type in this situation in the game, and two successful free throws gives the Hawks a three point lead with one more Orlando possession on offense to defend.
The last throw of the dice from Orlando was quite literally a last throw as the Magic get very little going and Suggs is forced to look behind him to Banchero as the shotclock creeps below 10 seconds. A good screen from Suggs on Johnson forces Okongwu to step up to challenge for him but Banchero drains the three to tie the game:
On a night where Banchero struggled from the field and was 0-of-4 from three up to this point, I think this is a shot you can live with, in context. It’s a tough basket from Banchero on a night he’d missed many jumpshots — tough break that this is the one he hit but the Hawks still have a chance, the last chance.
The Hawks don’t call a timeout as Murray brings the ball up the floor, takes on Fultz and drains the jumpshot at the buzzer for the win:
A tough shot from Murray but he got it to go to give the Hawks a much-needed victory.
You could see Snyder motion to Young that he wanted a timeout but of course Young didn’t have the ball and Murray was already down the floor. It worked out in their favor and I think it was the right decision in the end. Even at the end of the first quarter Orlando had a defensive substitution where they could get the likes of Jonathon Isaac in, and a defensive guy like that can only add to your headaches on a final possession.
“That’s always a debate,” said Hawks head coach Quin Snyder of not calling an timeout. “You call timeout and the defense gets set and they substitute. ‘DJ’ rewarded that confidence and I’m happy for him. It was contested, that’s a shot he can make, and he did.”
The perspectives differed of the final possession. Young believed Snyder wanted the timeout but the officials simply didn’t hear him.
“When the ball went in the first thing I think about is if we have a timeout or not and if we’re going to go,” said Young of the final play. “I looked up real quick, saw we had a timeout, saw that they were pressuring and thought we were going to call a timeout. Quin actually was telling the ref ‘timeout,’ and he didn’t hear them. The refs weren’t hearing a lot of people all game so it worked in our favor there! He didn’t hear him and then we got the ball to DJ and DJ did his thing. That’s why I was kind of jumping, I’m, like, looking at the ref thinking, ‘He’s literally telling you timeout...oh, OK, we got DJ the ball so now we good.’ Got him the ball, let him do his thing. I think the best thing was to get it in transition and make a play. Quin did a great job of not calling timeout and we spaced for ‘DJ’ and let him do his thing.”
Murray, on the other hand, didn’t believe Snyder signalled for the timeout.
“He didn’t signal for a timeout once Paolo hit the three,” said Murray of the play. “I think JJ was trying to get the ball to Trae, obviously, and Trae was denied. I got the ball and it was ‘Go win the game.’”
“It’s a make or miss league,” added Murray. “You’re going to make or miss shots, but with me I always feel I’ll make the next shot if I miss a shot. It comes from working hard and being extremely confident in myself, even my teammates. If my teammate took the shot I believe it’s going in. I didn’t shoot it with the intentions of, ‘Oh, I’m going to miss this shot.’ It was like, ‘Let’s go home,’ and I made the shot.”
With the Hawks having the season that they are currently, any victory is welcome, and Snyder was particularly pleased with the competitiveness, cohesion and unselfishness his side played with, reaffirming the aspects the Hawks have been working on together.
“I thought we were unselfish, we competed, and we were really connected,” said Snyder. “I think getting the win, it was a really good win because it was an affirmation of those things. Obviously things we can do better, that’s usually the case. But it was a really good effort on those three levels as much as anything. We talked about that prior to the game where we can see improvement. That really helped our execution. I thought Trae and ‘DJ’ playing off each other late, they were poised and we were able to defend late.”
The Hawks moved the ball well and though 21 assists to 23 turnovers (eight from Young, five from Murray) may tell one story, the Hawks were keen to move the ball even if the end result didn’t quite go their way. There were some poor passes, poor decisions but the Magic’s size and length also interfered with the Hawks’ offense.
“That’s obviously an area we want to take care of the ball better,” said Snyder of the turnovers. “They have Isaac out there, he spreads out. Banchero out there, even Joe Ingles is 6-foot-8, Fultz is 6-foot-7, Suggs is big at 6-foot-4, they’re big. It takes a little getting used to that and you have to adjust, but some of the angles on your passes they’re able to distort those. Some of the times you throw a lob if you’re playing the pass they can tip it. I think our players know that, it wasn’t time to remind them of their turnovers tonight. We can do that later.”
The Magic scored 28 points off of those Atlanta turnovers, and there was another miscellaneous stat that leaned heavily in Orlando’s favor and that was offensive rebounding leading to second chance scoring. The Magic collected 16 offensive rebounds which led to 25 second chance points with Goga Bitadze grabbing seven offensive rebounds. Snyder looked again to the Hawks’ lack of size in comparison to the Magic, especially when Clint Capela was drawn elsewhere on Banchero.
“I’m not letting our guys off the hook,” said Snyder when asked about the rebounding. “When Clint gets switched out onto Banchero — I thought we really made him work — our backline on the glass isn’t 6-foot-9, 6-foot-11, 6-foot-8 whatever it was. They’re big. They cut because he’s in an isolation situation in the back-down. O did a great job guarding him, all our guys who was on him. Jalen had a couple of contests on him that were really good. I thought we did a good job of defending him. Those shots they know he’s shooting them and they crash (the glass). It’s something we’ve got to stay committed to but as much as anything it’s the process of getting those hits if we can’t really jump with them. If someone has a running start it’s hard, but that’s where we competed. We got more familiar with the way they were going to glass as the game went on. We have to gang rebound.”
It helps explain why Capela only pulled three rebounds but the Hawks’ defense on Banchero was solid. It was more so Banchero missing a lot of shots, shooting 8-of-25 from the field. Many of these were jumpshots, some were well contested, others Banchero just missed. His 9-of-11 showing from the line helped bolstered his scoring tally in the end. Similar could be said of Young, who scored 18 points on 5-of-14 from the field and 1-of-6 from three, and 7-of-7 from the line. Young, like Banchero, was clutch when his side needed him and knocking down all of those free throws down the stretch was instrumental to the Hawks.
It was Murray who led the way with 26 points on 11-of-18 from the field on another efficient night for the guard, whom rumours continue to swirl around. Okongwu scored 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with nine rebounds as six of the Hawks’ eight man rotation scored in double digits.
It helped bring the balance back to the Hawks to make up for some of those miscellaneous stats that went against the Hawks and what helped make this a very even affair. In the three games between these two sides, two of these games now have been decided by two points or less while the Magic won by seven points earlier in January.
Trae Young offered an interesting theory as to why the Hawks and Magic play close games.
“They’re kind of like the exact opposite type of team,” said Young of the close games between the two sides. “They’re a very, very good defensive team and can kind of struggle sometimes on offense, and we’re the opposite. We’re a very, very good offensive team that struggles on defense sometimes. I think that’s why you get these kind of games and battles where it’s close. It’s like a teeter-totter, we kind of even each other out sometimes. It’s just whichever one is going to give more that game and that night.”
The Hawks are tied for 10th in offensive rating while the Magic are third in defensive rating, so there is some truth to what Young is saying. However, despite the entertaining nature of these games, the Hawks would prefer to have the job done prior to the last possession.
“We still want to win games better than that,” said Murray. “You don’t want to take games to the last second shot. We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to work on, one is taking care of the ball, starting with myself.”
While there was euphoria for Murray and the Hawks, Wednesday night’s game was a formality for others. Bogdan Bogdanovic was rocked by the loss of Serbian coach Dejan Milojevic, whose passing was announced earlier in the day. Bogdanovic considered not playing at all last night before deciding to be there for his team.
“I saw the guys in the locker room and everything is coming through my mind ‘It’s the job at the end of the day,’” said Bogdanovic. “We are fighting something here to get a win and I know I can still help the guys. I was thinking of not showing up tonight when I couldn’t sleep and I was out of my routine. But then I was like, ‘He would not want me to do that,’ I was thinking about that too ... NBA is such a great community that helps you in these tough moments.”
Bogdanovic scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting and 2-of-4 from three, but he admits it was all a blur.
“I don’t even know what I did tonight, I forgot,” said Bogdanovic. “I remember warmups, I don’t know what I was doing, I forgot a couple of my routines. It is what it is.”
It’s extremely difficult circumstances to have to work through loss no matter what your profession is. Bogdanovic played well given the circumstances and his mind understandably elsewhere.
All in all, a good win for the Hawks against a better opponent (even without Franz Wagner once again) but were somewhat fortunate that Banchero had an off night, and that their 23 turnover performance didn’t result in a loss. Still, the Hawks’ top players in Young and Murray executed in the fourth quarter and the Banchero and the Magic didn’t execute enough. The Murray shot...not much you can do more with that. The fouls out front on Young before even driving that led to free throws really hurt the Magic.
The Hawks (17-23) are back in action on Friday against the Miami Heat (24-17) in South Beach. It’ll be a difficult fixture for the Hawks, and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any progression against a team with big aspirations.
Until next time...