The Atlanta Hawks will try to complete a sweep of their five-game homestand and get back to the .500 mark Monday when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Hawks have won four in a row after Saturday’s 115-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Oklahoma City dropped a 111-105 decision in Boston on Saturday and has lost two straight and four of five.
The Hawks’ homecourt turnaround has come on the heels of six-game losing streak, four of those on a West Coast swing, which dropped them to 4-9 on the season. They haven’t been back to the break-even point since starting the season 3-1 and losing eight of nine.
“I think the improvement that we’ve made is just to play faster,” Atlanta’s Trae Young said. “The more possessions you have, the more shots you get up. With the guys we have, it’s good.”
The Hawks have gotten more balanced scoring on the homestand. They had six players in double figures on Saturday and Clint Capela had one of his best games with 20 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.
“We’ve come out with a lot of energy,” Capela said. “We’re trying to put more emphasis on running the floor and getting everybody to run the floor. Now it’s important for us to stay locked in.”
If there was one point of contention for Atlanta coach Nate McMillan from Saturday, it was rebounding. The Hawks were beaten on the boards 52-45.
“I really like the way we played, other than the rebounding,” McMillan said. “If we rebound the ball, then I think we control the game, but we didn’t rebound the ball.”
That could be an issue when the Hawks play Oklahoma City, which ranks No. 1 in the NBA with 48.4 total rebounds and 37.8 defensive rebounds per game. Rookie Josh Giddey leads the Thunder with 7.3 rebounds, with Darius Bazley right behind at 7.1.
Consider that seven different Thunder players average at least four rebounds a game, compared to two for the Hawks.
Giddey became one of only 16 NBA players since 2001 to average nine-plus points, six-plus rebounds and six-plus assists through the first 10 games of their rookie season and the first to do so since Trae Young in 2018. He’s part of the youthful group trying help the team bounce back from last season’s disappointment.
“Wins or losses, they don’t deter where we’re trying to head,” Giddey said. “You’re going to lose some, you’re going to win some, but not losing sight of the end goal we’re trying to get to is something that’s strong within this group.”
The aggressive nature of the team is personified by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered Saturday’s game with the second-most drive points in the NBA (11.3 per game), behind only Ja Morant (12.7). Gilgeous-Alexander is one of 11 players averaging 20-plus points (20.4) and four-plus assists (5.1) and three or fewer turnovers per game (2.6).
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault is expected to miss Monday’s game in order to be with wife, Ashley, who is expecting their first child. Assistant coach Dave Bliss is serving as the acting coach.
This is the first of two meetings between the teams, who don’t have a rematch until March 30 in Oklahoma City. They split the series a year ago, each winning on their own home court. The Thunder have not won in Atlanta since 2018.
–Field Level Media