Hawks looking to stun Thunder
The upstart Atlanta Hawks get another chance to test one of the NBA's top-tier teams on Tuesday when the Oklahoma City Thunder make their lone visit to town.
This is the second game in a four-game homestand for Atlanta and is a quick one-day trip for Oklahoma City, the No. 3 team in the Western Conference.
This marks the second meeting between the two clubs this season. Oklahoma City overpowered the Hawks 124-109 on Nov. 30. But that's when Atlanta was really struggling, a period that saw the Hawks lose 10 straight and 14 of 16.
The fortunes have changed somewhat for the Hawks, who remain in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, but have won seven of their last 14. The Hawks were competitive in a 133-114 loss to Milwaukee on Sunday, hanging close for three quarters with the same team that beat them by 32 points just nine days earlier.
An ongoing problem for the young Hawks has been turnovers. They had 24 against the Bucks, which led to 34 points. They average 18.4 turnovers, 30th in the league.
"It's a recurring problem, but I'd like to think guys are just trying to make plays," rookie Kevin Huerter said. "We were being a little careless with the ball on some possessions."
It was a good sign for Atlanta to see rookie Trae Young post some good scoring numbers. Young drove aggressively to the basket, got to the line 13 times, and scored 28 points against Milwaukee. It was his first 20-point effort since Dec. 29. Young has made a 3-pointer in 11 straight games.
Oklahoma City ended its three-game losing streak on Saturday by beating the San Antonio Spurs 122-112. That avenged a road loss to the Spurs just two days earlier.
Much of the credit for ending the slump went to guard Dennis Schroder, who scored all 19 of his points in the second half. Schroder played with the Hawks for five seasons -- the last two as the starter -- and was traded in the offseason to make room for Young.
Schroder is averaging 15.3 points, 4.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds. But he had been shooting just 32 percent and averaging only 10.4 points since the calendar turned. Schroder, who has never lacked from confidence, said he had to keep playing his game and wait for better results.
"I just stayed aggressive," he said. "I had a tough stretch of games. My teammates kept giving me confidence. You know, 'Keep shooting, keep being you.' I think I did that (Saturday) in the second half."
He even overcame a technical foul. But that fits into the combative style of play that Thunder coach Billy Donovan likes to see from Schroder. Donovan said Schroder plays better when he is upset.
"I need to learn to be angry like that every time," Schroder said.
The Thunder are still playing without guard Alex Abrines, who has missed seven straight games due to personal reasons. Nerlens Noel is on concussion protocol after taking a nasty fall and hitting his head against Minnesota on Jan. 8.
The Hawks got forward Taurean Prince back after he missed 18 games with an ankle injury. Prince is on restricted minutes and scored seven points in 11 minutes against the Bucks. Guard Kent Bazemore remains out with an ankle injury and center Dewayne Dedmon sat out the last game with an ongoing left ankle problem.
The Thunder are 13-7 all-time against the Hawks in the Oklahoma City era and have won three straight against the Hawks.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 14, 2019