The Hawks ran, ran and then ran some more.
Behind a 31-8 advantage in fast-break points and 27 points from John Collins, the Hawks (24-45) sped to a 132-111 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at State Farm Arena Wednesday night. Atlanta didn’t trail the entire game.
The most breathtaking moment in transition came in the third quarter, when Hawks rookie Trae Young, still in the backcourt and barely beyond his own 3-point arc, launched a 65-foot pass that greeted Collins promptly at the rim for an incredible alley-oop. The play extended the Hawks’ lead to 87-64, their largest at the time.
“I know what he likes to look for in terms of passing,” Collins said of his point guard. “I try to get into that area or frame that he feels comfortable with. He threw it, and the chemistry just kind of takes over after that.”
The game featured plenty of other highlight-reel plays, too. Collins improvised for a Jordan-esque dunk-turned-layup in the fourth quarter. DeAndre’ Bembry busted out a 360 slam in the open court in the first. Vince Carter served up a no-look alley-oop to Alex Len in the third, a play that coach Lloyd Pierce felt defined the game.
“There’s no greater stat you want to have than good ball movement. I thought Vince made the most unselfish play of the night. He had a wide-open corner three, and he throws it to the rim and we get a dunk. That’s what we want, for our guys to feel empowered by the ball movement,” Pierce said.
The Hawks recorded 35 assists compared to just 12 turnovers, a ratio Pierce described as “special.” Atlanta is 11-3 when recording at least 30 assists.
Young finished with 22 points and eight assists. Len also had a strong 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists as he came off the bench with Dewayne Dedmon back in the starting lineup. Collins had a double-double, adding 12 rebounds to his 27 points.
It was an all-around fun game for everybody besides those in the powder blue Memphis jerseys. The loss halted a three-game win streak for the Grizzlies (28-41), their longest since November. C.J. Miles was a bright spot, putting up 33 points, including 8-for-12 shooting on 3-pointers.
After being unable to extend leads past double digits in the first half, the Hawks came out stronger in the second half. They opened the third quarter on a 15-4 run, which included 3-pointers from Young and Kevin Huerter and finished with the cross-court alley-oop to Collins.
“Sometimes, finishing games is when you have a big lead, not letting a team come back and extending that lead,” Pierce said. “You want to force the other coach’s hand and make him put their subs in.”
The first half ebbed and flowed, though the Hawks controlled the lead the entire 24 minutes. The Hawks had two 11-point leads, 19-8 in the first quarter and 54-43 in the second, that the Grizzlies were able to chip down to two points. However, by stringing together stops and 3-pointers at the end of the second quarter, Atlanta managed to extend the advantage to 72-60 at half.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.