Friday night, Murray went off and did so quickly. After scoring a quick eight points in the first quarter, he returned to lead players from the second unit. But he took what the game was giving to him in the second quarter, exploding for 15 points.
He finished the first half with 23 points, the 10th time he has dropped 20 or more points in an opening half in his career. It’s the third time doing so against the Trail Blazers, including Jan. 30, 2022 and March 23, 2022, both in Portland.
He scored a career-high 41 points with 4:15 remaining in the game this time, knocking down 5-of-5 shots from 3.
“But I’m just playing basketball, trying to get better in the gym each and every day, in the film room each and every day,” Murray said. “So I was trying to translate it to help us get wins.”
2. The Hawks began the night on a strong note defensively, holding the Trail Blazers to just 19 points in the first quarter. The last time the two teams faced each other in January, the Hawks gave up 19 3-pointers, with Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant combining for 14 of them.
On Friday, the Hawks limited them to six fewer made 3-pointers, but Lillard, who scored 33 points, still managed to find his shots from outside five times. Former Hawks wing Cam Reddish, who chipped in 25, knocked down 4-of-9 shots from long range, torching the Hawks in the fourth quarter.
But the Hawks challenged every shot the Blazers took, holding them to 47.1% shooting overall.
3. Part of what allowed the Hawks to limit the Trail Blazers was the way they attacked the boards. The Hawks took advantage of a number of offensive rebounds and they capitalized on the second-chance points. The Hawks scored 24 second-chance points on 10 offensive boards.
This week, Snyder talked of the entire team needing to step up defensively. He added that he talked with the team about guards needing to step in to help the bigs on the boards.
On Friday, Trae Young had seven rebounds along with his 23 points and 11 assists.
“Anytime teams are shooting 3s it’s usually going to generate long rebounds,” Young said. “So, just knowing that and knowing who I was guarding with Matisse (Thybulle), he’s a guy that crashes the boards and hits open shots. So just trying to keep him off the glass as much as I can and then just get the long rebounds.”
4. With the Hawks looking to put player development first as they shift the culture, Snyder has found ways to utilize the team’s younger players based on matchups. After playing AJ Griffin on Tuesday, Snyder turned to sophomore forward Jalen Johnson to match up with the Trail Blazers’ size.
Johnson capitalized on the minutes he played, scoring eight points and adding four rebounds and four assists. He used his athleticism, scoring a couple of dunks in transition that had fans roaring.
“He’s a point forward,” Murray said. “Somebody that can get the rebound and go coast to coast, whether it’s for him or his teammate, and we need him. We need him to grow up. We need him to take advantage of every time he’s on the floor because he helps us win the game on defense and offense, so I love everything about Jalen.”
5. The Hawks will look to continue building on the mentality, details and habits of Snyder as they make their push.
With the team’s next two games coming against the Heat, it has an opportunity to move one spot closer to the sixth seed. The Hawks are one game back from the Heat following Miami’s loss to the Knicks Friday.
Stat to know
5 -- Hawks center Clint Capela has had at least one block in five straight games, his second-longest streak of the season.
“Obviously I’m not the tallest guy in the room. I’m not DJ’s height, so I can’t do certain things that he does but I’m always trying to pick everybody’s brain, guys who I go against who are now teammates with, I can always learn.” -- Trae Young on learning from Dejounte Murray.
The Hawks are back in action on Saturday when they face the Heat in Miami.