SACRAMENTO -- The Hawks snapped a four-game losing skid on Wednesday night after a heartbreaking loss on Monday. They downed the Kings 120-117.
Here are five observations.
1. The Hawks looked on the brink of picking up another loss but a strong finish from Dejounte Murray helped seal the team’s first win since Dec. 23.
Murray, who scored 21 points, knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Hawks a 118-117 lead with 31 seconds left in the game. Then he poked the ball away from De’Aaron Fox, his third steal, and took it straight to the rim to seal the game with 16.8 seconds remaining.
The jolt from Murray kicked off a strong defensive stand from the Hawks, who have struggled to get stops and pull down rebounds in the final stretches of games.
So, when the Kings returned from their timeout, the Hawks stood strong. Onyeka Okongwu blocked Fox’s shot at the rim and the team stopped Domantas Sabonis for getting off the putback.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about the last couple games,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We have to close out games and we have to make plays down the stretch in that fourth quarter. Tonight we did. We did a good job of getting stops when we needed them. I thought DJ’s steal was a big play.
“You got to make plays like that when you’re in situations like we’ve been in. Onyeka and John Collins were big on the boards for us tonight. And then I thought our guys executed offensively. We stepped up and knocked down our free throws, and made plays in the fourth quarter to win the game.”
2. The Hawks needed to come up big, but as the game raced down the stretch they seemingly did not have any answers to a 7-0 Kings run. Murray scored a jumper from midrange to put the Hawks up 113-109 with 2:12 remaining in the game.
But then the Hawks went scoreless for the next 54 seconds. Prior to that, Fox slammed down a thunderous dunk on the head of Okongwu that sparked a lot of life into the Kings. Then former Hawks wing Kevin Huerter knocked down a 3-pointer. Fox got to the basket again straight down the lane and drew a 3-point play to put the Kings up 117-113 with 1:16 remaining in the game.
The Hawks have allowed many a game to come down to the final seconds as they struggle to get stops and make shots.
“I mean, it’s been what, a long week, obviously dropping what, four games,” Murray said. “At the end of the day, this is the NBA. It’s a long season. You get to go out and redeem yourself as a unit, as a team. And I feel like we showed that last game in Golden State we fought versus a really good team and you know, they lost what two games besides tonight at home. So, that just shows that we’re trying to go in the right direction. And obviously come in to play a great team that’s playing well this year, and obviously at home in Sacramento and we were able to pull out a win.”
3. The Hawks looked to limit the Kings in transition on Wednesday. They’ve averaged 19 fast-break points over the last four games after giving up 29 points to the Pacers to begin their recent stretch of games.
The Hawks limited the Kings, a team that averages 14 fast-break points a game, to seven in the first half while slowing Fox. The Hawks limited the guard to eight points in the first half, roughly three points fewer than his average.
With the Hawks’ opponents taking the ball out of the net, the team has struggled to get back in transition and keep their opponents in front.
4. But the Hawks allowed the Kings to stay in the game off of some of their mistakes. The Hawks gave up 11 points off of 12 turnovers through the first three quarters. The Kings would often send their bigs down low to trap Hawks guard Trae Young on his drives to the basket.
When Young, who ended the night with 21 points, would step on the brakes or try to get creative with his passes on kickouts, the Kings were ready. Young had four turnovers to his four assists through three quarters, with Collins, De’Andre Hunter and Okongwu accounting for the remaining eight.
Then in the fourth quarter, as the Hawks looked to create separation from the Kings, officials called both Okongwu and Murray for offensive fouls. Then Murray stepped out of bounds.
The Hawks have averaged 12.9 turnovers per game this season, the third fewest in the NBA. But against the Kings, they had 16 as they played aggressively to stop their skid.
5. After the Warriors outrebounded the Hawks 69-53 on Monday night, the Hawks performed better on the boards against the Kings. The Hawks gave up 23 offensive rebounds to the Warriors, they held the Kings to just 10.
Stat to know
24 – Kings guard Kevin Huerter scored 24 against the Hawks, his former team.
“Giving him the ball. Give him the ball. You can’t take five shots, seven shots, you gotta be in, you know, double-figure shot attempts. So he’s getting the ball.” -- Dejounte Murray on why John Collins has scored 20-plus points in four of the last five games.
The Hawks play at the Lakers Friday night. L.A. (17-21) beat the Heat Wednesday night. Ex-Hawk Dennis Schroder scored 32 for the Lakers. LeBron James (ill) did not play.