Hawks at Thunder Live Notebook
The Hawks will look for their second win in a row on Friday night as they visit Oklahoma City for their first matchup of the season with the 26-19 Thunder. Atlanta has won three of its last five contests and, for the first time since 2017, will take the court with an All Star on its roster.
Trae Young was named a starter in the 2020 All Star game Thursday night -- his first career All-Star selection -- and will play his first game after the announcement in his home state of Oklahoma, less than an hour from his home town of Norman.
"It's an indescribable feeling," Young said via a team press release on Thursday. "It’s a great honor to be named a starter for the All-Star game but as a team, we have a lot left to accomplish on the court and I’m really excited about our future.”
Young missed Atlanta's game against the Clippers on Wednesday and was listed as probable on the team's injury report today, but is available against OKC in what is undoubtedly a particularly meaningful game for him. He'll start along with Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter, John Collins, and Bruno Fernando.
Alex Len is also active for the Hawks while Jabari Parker remains out rehabbing from a right shoulder impingement. Parker did a light on-court workout on Thursday but did not use his right arm to shoot, and remains at least a week away from returning to the floor.
DeAndre' Bembry will miss his second consecutive game with right hand neuritis. He did not travel with the team to Oklahoma City and underwent a non-surgical procedure on his hand in Atlanta Friday afternoon. He won't have any medical restrictions on his playing time once he returns.
Chandler Parsons, who hadn't been a part of Atlanta's rotation of late, has returned to his home in California following a car accident that gave him a concussion and whiplash. Parsons has also been dealing with ongoing knee issues for the last few seasons. There is no timetable for his return.
For the Thunder, Steven Adams and Abdel Nader won't play due to left ankle sprains, while Terrance Ferguson will miss Friday's game for personal reasons. That leaves the guard-heavy Thunder even thinner in the frontcourt and on the wing, which could lead to more minutes with Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schröder on the floor together. Nerlens Noel will start at center.
Hawks Fall Down 10-2
Atlanta ran an interesting set on its second possession, with Trae Young coming off a dribble-handoff from John Collins and finding the big man with a lob for the Hawks' only two points of the game so far. Young brought the ball, but the Hawks reversed it to the opposite side of the floor with De'Andre Hunter before Young circled back to it. That's the kind of action Atlanta should look to execute more often now that Young doesn't have to handle the ball for nearly every moment of each possession.
The Hawks have run several handoff actions early -- so many, in fact, that Chris Paul shouted, "He's getting a dribble-handoff!" prior to one of the Hawks' sideline out-of-bounds plays.
Oklahoma City, meanwhile, is getting to the basket with ease, often with Paul setting up easy looks around the rim with his passing. The Hawks must do a better job against the veteran guard at the point of attack; once he has a step on his man and draws help, he almost always finds the open man.
Hawks Working Through Hunter in the Post
The Thunder have stuck Chris Paul on De'Andre Hunter defensively, which Atlanta has tried to exploit by posting Paul up. While Hunter made his first two shots, that doesn't feel like a winning long-term strategy. Dominique Wilkins noted on the broadcast that Hunter settled for a midrange jumper rather than backing Paul down, but that's a task more easily said than done.
Height doesn't necessarily equate to strength. Paul is stout and tough to move, and the Thunder will live with the rookie launching contested 15-footers over a shorter defender. How much longer will the Hawks take the bait?
Thunder lead 18-14.
Reddish Aggressive Early
Cam Reddish has made an immediate impact off the bench, scoring seven points with a pair of rebounds. He let Mike Muscala slip free for a 3, but has otherwise been active and engaged on defense, including a swipe on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander that gave the Hawks an extra possession.
The rookie has gradually improved his strength, which shows on plays like his layup over Muscala -- on which he drove downhill, got into Muscala's body, and extended his left hand for the finish. That's not a play Reddish was capable of making earlier this year, and his overall progression on offense since the start of the year has been noticeable.
Thunder lead 33-30 after one.
The Hawks have looked out of sync since the end of the first quarter. There's virtually no help defense at the rim, and when there is, Oklahoma City has evaded it with ease. Atlanta can't make any headway on offense, either, scoring just 0.92 points per possession. No more than three Hawks have appeared on the same page at once, which had led to five turnovers and a few more hopeless shot attempts.
OKC Controlling the Rim in the First Half
Oklahoma City's rim protection has been so much better than Atlanta's tonight, which has resulted in a lopsided margin in interior scoring. The Thunder are 12-of-15 at the rim and have drawn three shooting fouls inside, while the Hawks have only taken nine shots at the basket and drawn a single shooting foul. Seemingly all of OKC's layups and dunks have been uncontested, and the Thunder have challenged nearly every shot on the other end.
The Hawks have cut into the Thunder's advantage at the rim with floaters (6-of-10) and 3-pointers (4-of-11), but that's no way to make a living against a team dominating so thoroughly such a key facet of the game.
Thunder lead 66-58 at halftime.
The Hawks are in decent position to be down only eight at half given how poorly Trae Young has shot the ball. Young hasn't played poorly, necessarily, but has been rather anonymous relative to his usual self. Just 2-of-10 from the field, Young still has eight assists to just one turnover and has earned seven free-throw attempts. His defense has been characteristically poor, though Atlanta's rim protectors haven't done him many favors, and OKC has targeted him multiple times.
Collins has 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting, but not much else to show for his efforts. Reddish gave the Hawks some energy off the bench, and we haven't seen Vince Carter yet. Chris Paul has been marvelous for Oklahoma City with 11 points and four assists.
The Hawks salvaged a 116 offensive rating with a nice spurt to close the first half, but haven't been able to slow the Thunder, who scored 1.26 points per possession. Atlanta has struggled to keep OKC off the offensive glass or the foul line, and the Thunder have made most of their progress at the rim.
Collins & Young Team Up To Pull Hawks Within Four
While Young hasn't had his most efficient shooting game, he still commands Oklahoma City's full attention, which has direct benefits for Atlanta's offense, even on cold nights like this one. He just pulled Nerlens Noel away from Collins off of a double ball screen, which left Collins wide open for a dunk as Vince Carter (the other screener) spotted up at the top of the key. Kevin Huerter's presence in the right corner gave Young just enough space to slot the ball to Collins underneath.
Collins and Young have 10 early points in the third quarter as the Hawks have drawn within four points of the Thunder.
OKC leads 74-70 with 8:38 to play in the third.
Collins Gets Loose Again
The Hawks run the same play, with Carter and Collins screening for Young, and it yields another uncontested layup for Collins after Young slithers into the lane, draw help, and finds the big man.
The Thunder haven't solved that action, or Collins, tonight, and the Hawks' third-year man is up to 24 points on 11-for-12 shooting in just 20 minutes. He now has 114 points in his last six games (including tonight) on 62 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, Damian Jones has entered the game in place of Bruno Fernando, who hasn't quite had it tonight. The Hawks immediately run the exact same double high pick-and-roll, and Young hits a floater.
Thunder lead 83-78.
Len Absent From Hawks' Rotation
Alex Len has yet to play and does not appear to be on the Hawks' bench (as first spotted by Peachtree Hoops). My best guess would be that his back flared up and he's unable to go in the remainder of this game. He looked slightly stiffer than usual in the first half and didn't have much explosion around the rim on either end.
That would explain Jones' appearance, but with neither he nor Fernando playing well tonight, it seems highly likely the Hawks will close the game with Collins at center and Reddish on the wing.
Update: The Hawks announce that Len has a right hip flexor strain and will not return. This is a new injury for Len, and a troubling one given the state of Atlanta's center rotation.
Meanwhile, the Thunder closed the third quarter on fire to open up a 104-90 lead after three quarters. Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schröder, and Mike Muscala helped lead Oklahoma City's attack, and the Hawks' offense dropped off when Young left the game late in the quarter.
Bazley, Gilgeous Alexander Give Thunder Separation
The Thunder have nudged their lead to 20 with 10:20 to play thanks to a string of buckets from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley, who have nine of OKC's last 11 points. Bazley has exploded to the hoop twice for authoritative layups, while Gilgeous-Alexander moves in the exact opposite fashion -- a deliberate, arrhythmic lope that keeps defenders off-kilter. The combination of the two in such quick succession has prevented the Hawks from timing the Thunder's drives, and OKC appears to have this one well in hand.