It was only a few weeks ago that Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk made a rare choice to publicly admit he may have screwed up his team’s roster. Shortly after, the NBA was made aware that Atlanta’s entire roster was fair game with the exceptions of Trae Young and Clint Capela.
But so far, sending Cam Reddish to the New York Knicks is the only move Schlenk has made to change course. And the way the Hawks are playing right now, it could remain that way.
Young and Atlanta took down the NBA’s best team, the Phoenix Suns, on Feb. 3. Trae and the Hawks are healthy and rolling, and their most recent win should serve as a warning sign to the league that Atlanta is back.
Trae Young scored 43 and the Atlanta Hawks beat the best team in the NBA
Atlanta’s win made the Suns the last team in the NBA to reach double-digit losses.
Even with the defeat, Phoenix still has the best record in the league at 41-10 and remains two full games ahead of the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference standings.
But Trae scored 43 points, the Hawks hit 20 three-pointers, and the team came away with a 124-115 victory, ending the Suns’ 11-game winning streak.
“I think I just grew up just watching these moments and thinking about being in these moments,” Young said via ESPN. “The best team in the league with the best record. … I love these moments.”
Phoenix didn’t play poorly. Chris Paul continued his reign as the Point God, scoring 18 points and adding 12 assists with zero turnovers. Devin Booker poured in 32 points, and Mikal Bridges added 24.
The Suns had three more players score in double figures as well, with Cam Johnson (13), JaVale McGee (12), and Jae Crowder (10).
Atlanta and Young were just better.
“It was a steady dose of Trae,” CP3 said. “Trae is just tough like that. If you watch him on a nightly basis, he’s a handful.”
The Hawks are at their best, though, when it isn’t just Young firing from 30 feet on every possession. When Atlanta made its run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the team got contributions from everyone and everywhere. That’s what happened against Phoenix, and that’s what’s been happening for the last few weeks as the Hawks begin to fire on all cylinders again.
Atlanta is rounding back into last year’s form
Of course, Trae got his, but he also got plenty of help from his supporting cast.
The Hawks had six players in double figures. Young led the way, but John Collins finished with a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds and was 3-of-5 from three.
Kevin Huerter hit five three-pointers on his way to 19 points, and De’Andre Hunter — who can be Atlanta’s X-factor when healthy — added 13 points.
Danilo Gallinari had 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists off the bench, and Bogdan Bogdanovic had 11 points and six dimes.
As Phoenix head coach Monty Williams said, his team isn’t used to being bluntly outscored the way it was on Feb. 3.
“Any team that scores 100 points after three quarters on us, that’s just not something we’re used to,” he said.
However, the win over the Suns wasn’t a flash in the pan. It was Atlanta’s eighth win in nine games. The Hawks have vaulted themselves from 12th in the East to 10th in a week and a half. They’re now only four games back of the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets, who are currently without MVP candidate Kevin Durant.
Over those last nine games, Atlanta is second in the league in scoring and leads the NBA in three-point percentage (an important indicator of this team’s success) and field-goal percentage.
The team is also fourth in defensive rating and has a better than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio.
The Hawks are playing efficient, high-level basketball on both ends of the floor. That’s what got them within two wins of the NBA Finals last year and what’s getting them back into the thick of the playoff race this year.
Trae and Co. are trying to show last year was not a fluke
As Young said per ESPN, it’s now incumbent upon the Hawks to use this win as another stepping stone to get back to where they were at the end of last season.
“We’ve got to use this as momentum,” Young said. “It’s a big win for us.”
Heading toward the trade deadline with a win over the league’s best team would certainly qualify for both “momentum” and “a big win.” Beating the Suns has to be a confidence boost for Atlanta and helps them get one win closer to solidifying a better playoff spot in the East.
The question now for Schlenk and the front office is, does anything change? Will the Hawks still be active in the final week before the trade deadline? Are there possible upgrades to give the team another boost, not only for the regular season but the playoffs?
Or is this recent run of form proof enough that the team has enough to get back within striking distance of an NBA championship?
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.