Throughout the Hawks’ 10-game losing streak, which came to a close Monday night with a 104-79 win at home against the struggling Warriors, Trae Young reiterated one point pretty consistently.
“The thing about me, that I understand, is it’s a long season,” Young said after scoring a team-high 24 points in the win Monday. “You can have a bad start and finish off strong, and vice versa.”
With no John Collins (who hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 31 and was suspended for 25 games Nov. 5 for violating the NBA’s drug policy) and no Kevin Huerter, who injured his left shoulder in the third quarter of the Hawks’ win in Denver on Nov. 12 (their losing streak began the following game in Phoenix), Young has had to carry a hefty load.
The Hawks were competitive in a string of losses to the Raptors, Timberwolves, Bucks and Pacers, but couldn’t get over the hump until Monday — the win may have come against a Golden State team that has been decimated with injuries and owns the worst record in the league (4-18), but no matter.
A win’s a win, and the Hawks (5-16) will try to use that as a springboard moving forward as they enter a slightly more forgiving stretch of their schedule.
“We haven’t felt that in a long time, so it was good to get that feeling again,” Young said. “But also, we got in here today and got some work in. Nobody in here is satisfied with just winning one game, so that’s a great thing to have.”
Regarding having time for a potential turnaround, Young has a point, but it’s unlikely the Hawks have a decent shot at course-correcting until they can reload and get Huerter and Collins back. The Hawks have yet to have both of them on the court at full force, since to start the season Huerter was hampered by a right knee injury that kept him sidelined for all five preseason games. Collins’ 25 games will be up Dec. 23 in Cleveland, and Huerter, who is starting to incorporate more contact into his rehab process, may return as soon as this week. He was upgraded to “questionable” for the Hawks’ game vs. the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday at State Farm Arena.
Rookie De’Andre Hunter dislocated his right index finger in the fourth quarter of Monday’s win and didn’t practice with the team Tuesday, though he practiced shooting with his left hand (he is right-handed) afterward. In the most recent Hawks injury report, Hunter is listed as “doubtful” for Wednesday’s game, but the team will evaluate him again the day of.
The Hawks also are missing Allen Crabbe, who underwent a non-surgical procedure on his right knee Tuesday and will not play Wednesday.
Fortunately, after about three road-heavy weeks (featuring nine away games and three home games), beginning with an overtime loss to Portland on Nov. 10 and culminating in a 158-111 shellacking by the Rockets on Nov. 30, the short-handed Hawks have entered into a calmer December, beginning with hosting the Nets (10-10) without Kyrie Irving (right shoulder impingement) on Wednesday, though the Nets have fared well in his absence, going 6-3. After three days off, the team will play in Charlotte (8-14) on Sunday. They’ll play Chicago (7-14) twice this month and play the Knicks (4-17) on Dec. 17.
The Hawks already started things out right by beating the Warriors in likely the most winnable game on paper, holding them to two fewer points total (79) than the Rockets had scored in the first half alone two days earlier (81).
“I thought the win was good just because of the streak,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “It’s no secret, you lose 10 in a row, your spirit gets dampened a little bit. You lose the way you lose in Houston, that’s a very deflating game, especially, I thought the progression of what we did in the previous four games, Minnesota, Toronto, Milwaukee, Indiana … I thought we were playing well, we were trending right.”
Moving forward, the Hawks hope Monday’s win will bring more wins with it, even if they’re not at full force yet.
“It’s hard to really judge right now, obviously, because we don’t have all our guys back,” Young said when asked of the Hawks’ potential at this point in the season. “But the guys we have right now, we’re still able to win some games. … We’ve just got to play with the same energy, the same effort. The way we played last game with the energy, the mindset we had, as far as just wanting to be aggressive but also play hard and smart on defense, I think if you attack the game with that type of mindset, that’s carrying it over to the next game, if we carry that momentum over, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
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