The Hawks reached .500 yet again Tuesday night, withstanding 44 points from the Cavs’ Donovan Mitchell in a 120-118 victory at State Farm Arena.
Here are five observations:
1. The Hawks played connected basketball, particularly down the stretch. The Cavaliers made several attempts to regain control of the game and even took a one-point lead with just over five minutes remaining.
But the Hawks made several clutch decisions on both ends of the floor that helped them maintain their rhythm.
Hawks guard Trae Young, who had 16 points and 10 assists, found John Collins in the corner for a 3 to regain the lead and they never surrendered it the rest of the way. Even with Mitchell firing away, the Hawks maintained the lead by crashing the glass to limit any second-chance opportunities.
“I think, to me, the most significant part of the game was, in various times when there was adversity, whether it was at the beginning, second half, third quarter and they made a couple runs, and they made some plays, I thought that we didn’t split apart,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said.
2. The Hawks had 25 assists and 41 made field goals and kept the Cavaliers, the league’s top defensive team, off balance. The Hawks made sure to drive in and collapse the defense, which opened up some opportunities outside.
They knocked down 12 of their 27 3-pointers, with a huge lift from Dejounte Murray, who shot 3-of-7 from deep. It’s the first time he made more than 35% of his 3s since March 3. Over the last 10 games, he shot 13.2% from long range but his touch gave the Hawks a huge boost.
Two of Murray’s shots from 3 came on four-point plays after the Cavaliers kept running into him on their closeouts. One of Murray’s seven attempts ended up sending him to the line for three free throws despite the Cavaliers challenging the call. Officials did not have conclusive evidence to overturn the call.
3. The Hawks’ bench re-invigorated the team when the energy ran cold on both ends of the floor. Onyeka Okongwu led the way with 21 points and nine rebounds as he tried to keep Evan Mobley at bay.
Okongwu was everywhere as he helped to box out Mobley and the rest of the Cavaliers’ front court. In battling the Cavs’ bigs, Okongwu fought through the contact to get to the line, where he made all but one of his free-throw attempts.
Over the last eight games, Okongwu has averaged 13.9 points and eight rebounds per game, while also staying out of foul trouble. Snyder has praised him for his discipline on the defensive end but also for the way he has attacked the offensive glass.
“It’s good to see him growing as a player and he’s got great hands, he finishes, and for big guys like that making free throws is really, really important because they’re down there, they’re mixing it up and, to be able to punish a defense for fouling you, it’s a big deal,” Snyder said.
4. But Okongwu had plenty of help from Bogdan Bogdanovic and Saddiq Bey off the bench. Both players gave the Hawks a jolt, with Bogdanovic knocking down shots and creating opportunities for his teammates.
In the third quarter, Bogdanovic posted up a defender and declined a screen from Okongwu. Instead he directed Okongwu toward the free-throw line, which opened up a lane. Bogdanovic curled the ball toward Okongwu and the third-year center took it right to the basket.
The Hawks had plenty of help on the glass from Bey, who had 10 rebounds. He also had an electrifying play where he found John Collins in transition after he stole the ball on the other end.
“Just overall, the bench mob, Bogi, Saddiq, AJ (Griffin), JJ (Jalen Johnson), we just try to take it up a notch and just bring another level of intensity to the game,” Okongwu said.
5. The Hawks (38-38) remain tied in eighth place in the standings with the Raptors. The Hawks hold the tiebreaker since they went 2-1 over Toronto this season.
Hawks 120, Cavs 118
Stat to know
11 -- Onyeka Okongwu extended his block streak to 11 straight games. He has rejected 95 shots this season, the most in a single season in his career.
“Donovan (Mitchell), obviously, he was making some shots, and we tried to do a few things with him that required five guys. And, you know, I think for the most part, like I said, we played as a team.” -- Hawks coach Quin Snyder
The Hawks head to Brooklyn to take on the Nets on Friday at Barclays Center.
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