Atlanta Hawks center Alex Len slams for two against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half in a NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Len ties season-high with 24 points in thrilling Hawks win

In the Hawks’ 142-126 offensive explosion over the Thunder Tuesday, Alex Len proved that John Collins isn’t the only inside threat for Atlanta. Len came off the bench to tie his season-high with 24 points while leading both teams in rebounds with 11.

“I was just open,” Len said. “They were staying on our shooters and not tagging the roll man, so I was getting opportunities wide open at the rim.”

From the jump, coach Lloyd Pierce hoped to exploit center Steven Adams and Oklahoma City’s aggressive switching style on pick-and-rolls. Len was key to unlocking the pestering Thunder defense.

“We tried to match Alex up with Adams as much as we could. With Adams out there, Alex was able to get to the rim after setting screens. We knew Adams would stay high, so we just had to find ways to get Alex the ball,” Pierce said.

Len started the game on the bench, as starting forward Omari Spellman checked Adams from tipoff. The rookie allowed Adams six early points, but when Len entered in the first quarter, the momentum turned the Hawks’ way. Thanks to a 45-point second quarter, the Hawks led by 11 at the half. The offense ran through the paint, as easy baskets from Len and Collins helped them each tally a game-leading 14 points at halftime. 

“Sometimes (Collins) tells me to pop, sometimes I’ll tell him to pop and I roll. We have great communication,” Len said of his teammate.

Collins scored 26 points, but Len was close behind with his 24, tied with Trae Young for second-most on the Hawks. Len credited his big numbers to his teammates, especially the Hawks’ rookie point guard.

“Trae is unbelievable. He’s so unselfish. He’s a wizard with the ball. Sometimes you don’t even see it coming and then ‘boom,’ easy basket,” Len said.

 Despite carrying four fouls for most of the second half, Len played more minutes (30) against the Thunder than Collins (28) or Spellman (21). He finished 9-for-14 from the field, including 1-for-4 from 3-point range. He rounded out his robust stat line with team-leading four offensive rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot. 

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