PHOENIX -- The Hawks looked to bounce back from their loss on Monday. They did it in a big way Wednesday night, beating the Suns 132-100.
Here are five observations:
1. The Hawks got off to a strong start early and never surrendered their lead. This was their third wire-to-wire win this season and allowed them to snap a two-game skid.
While the Hawks did give up a 10-point lead early, they never allowed the Suns to take the lead. They won for the first time in Phoenix since Feb. 2, 2019.
The Hawks got a boost from their bench early in the second quarter that kicked off a huge run. It outscored the Suns’ second unit 17-0 in the quarter to set the starters up to extend the team’s lead to 66-47 by the end of the first half.
They never let up when they returned from the locker room at halftime and extended their lead to 43 by the time the benches cleared.
2. On Monday, the Hawks played without Trae Young but lost by just four despite the hot shooting from the Trail Blazers. Wednesday, with Young back into the rotation, the Hawks had one of their best offensive nights of the season.
Young and Dejounte Murray combined for 20 of the Hawks’ 32 assists.
It was Murray who got going early, knocking down a 3 to open the game, before going on to make another. He has made a career-best 98 3-pointers on the season and has knocked down 9-of-15 over his last two games. He ended the night with 21 points.
For his part, Young may have started the night slowly, scoring-wise, but he eventually heated up. He scored 20 points after getting into the game by feeding Murray and his teammates early.
3. The Hawks needed to be better defensively. They gave up 19 3-pointers in each of their last two games, allowing shooters to get into their sweet spots.
But on Wednesday, the Hawks opened the game strong on the defensive end. They held the Suns, a 38.8% 3-point shooting team, to 2-for-17 shooting from distance in the first half. They chased the Suns off the 3-point line with much quicker closeouts.
On top of that, they forced the Suns, one of the slower teams in the NBA in terms of pace, to speed up into their shots. The Hawks held the Suns to 47 points in the first half.
Phoenix, the third-best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, finished the game 4-for-28.
“I thought we established our defense early,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We had really good ball movement in that first half, had 18 assists in the first half, and we were doing a better job of defending without fouling. And we were just consistent with that play for four quarters.”
4. The Hawks scored a season-high 19 3-pointers, with 10 different players making at least one. It’s the first time this season the majority of the rotation has knocked down at least one triple this year. The Hawks made 57.6% of their attempts from 3.
“It just opens the game up, obviously, if you’re making 3s, and it just opens literally everything up,” Murray said. “So, we played a great game. I think we executed the defensive end, taking away a lot of 3s, no dare shots, like I told you. That’s really what it is and we had a great game.”
5. With 7:17 left in the game, Onyeka Okongwu knocked down a 3-pointer and the Hawks’ bench went wild. Okongwu drifted over to the corner after setting a screen for Bogdan Bogdanovic as Murray surveyed the scene. Bogdanovic jogged over to Murray and signaled toward the third-year center waiting in the corner.
Murray sent a no-look pass to Okongwu and the 22-year-old fired away. It was his first made career 3-pointer out of seven attempts. He ended the night with 17 points.
“We were up 40, I told Dre (De’Andre Hunter), ‘I’m about to shoot a 3 and make game,’” Okongwu said. “He said, ‘No you’re not.’ I’m like ‘watch, watch.’ Next play. Sprayed it, shooter’s shoot.”
Hawks 132, Suns 100
Stat to know
3,000 - Trae Young has 3,000 assists in his career. At 24 years and 135 days, he is the second-youngest player in NBA history (LeBron James, 24 years and 67 days was first) to have over 8,000 points, 3,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds.
“We got to improve all aspects of our defense. We got to do a better job of transition defense, keeping the ball in front, controlling the basketball, defending the rim, rebounding the basketball. So it’s all aspects of our defense that we need to get better at.” -- Hawks coach Nate McMillan before the game.
The Hawks head to Salt Lake City to face the Jazz Friday.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com