As expected, the Atlanta Hawks’ offense has been strong to start the season, while the defense has struggled. On Thanksgiving weekend, Atlanta sat second in the league in offensive rating at 119.5 without Trae Young shooting the ball at his normal level. However, they owned the same number for defensive rating, leading to a 7-7 record.
While Young’s assists, assists/turnover ratio, and steals are all at career-high levels, his shooting percentage sat at a career-low of 38% from the field to begin the holiday week. Hawks fans are concerned about his efficiency throughout his career. However, Young is not a 38% shooter. He shoots 43% from the field for his career. The numbers will likely jump up, and they did in a big way this week.
Over last week’s most recent homestand, the Hawks battled the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets. The Pacers rank first in the league in offensive rating (122.5), while the Nets sit ninth (116.7). Three top 10 offenses competed inside State Farm Arena Thanksgiving Week. The result? Offensive explosions that entertained fans across the NBA.
Hawks and Pacers’ Historical Offensive Performance
When the Hawks faced the Pacers on Nov. 21, Atlanta fans knew they could be in for an offensive show before tip-off. The Pacers and Hawks are the only NBA teams to average over 30 points in every quarter this season. According to Brad Rowland, host of the Locked On Hawks Podcast, the pre-game over/under was set at 251.5- the highest for an NBA game since at least 2003.
Atlanta led 86-73 at halftime, as the game was on pace to smash the over. The Hawks’ 86 points at the half set a new franchise record. Bogdan Bogdanovic put up 22 points in only 13 first-half minutes! Young and Tyrese Haliburton had decent first halves, but both stars turned on the afterburners in the second.
Haliburton knocked down a whopping seven threes in the third quarter. Indiana took the lead in the third quarter as Haliburton skipped across the court after knocking in his seventh three. Late in the fourth, Buddy Hield put on a tough shotmaking display, chasing in two contested step-back threes to virtually seal the crazy 157-152 win for Indiana.
Young shot an absurd 13-17 from the field for 38 points, including 5-8 from deep, while Haliburton finished with 37 points (9-15 3pt) and 16 assists. The two star point guards battled, but Haliburton’s Pacers ultimately escaped with the victory.
Back-to-Back? No Problem
The following night, the Nets looked to steal a win in Atlanta. The Hawks fought off any signs of fatigue after a tiring game against Indiana the previous day. The Atlanta offense came out firing with 45 points in the opening quarter. Young was the catalyst, shooting 6-7 from beyond the arc in the first frame.
Mikal Bridges carried the offensive load for the Nets, especially down the stretch. After Young made one of two free throws to send the game into overtime, he and Bridges went back and forth in a scoring battle. Young scored 14 points, while Bridges put up 11 in the extra period.
Bridges ended with 45 points, tying a career-high he set last year on Feb. 15 against the Miami Heat. Young scored a season-high 43 points, knocking down another eight threes, leading Atlanta to a gutsy 147-145 victory.
A Costly Blowout Win in Washington
After a four-game homestand, the Hawks started a five-game road trip on Nov. 25, beginning with the Washington Wizards. Atlanta held a narrow lead throughout the first half, but the Hawks pulled away in the middle of the third quarter and never looked back. The Wizards only scored 20 points compared to Atlanta’s 37 in the third. Both teams emptied their bench in the middle of the final frame as the Hawks cruised to a 136-108 victory.
According to Kevin Chouinard, writer for Hawks.com, Atlanta’s 435 points through a three-game stretch ranks seventh in NBA history and the most since 1990. Once Young found his shot, it significantly boosted an already elite offense. Young shot 5-8 from three-point range, finishing with a 26-point, 10-assist double-double. Atlanta’s star guard converted 18-32 from beyond the arc over this three-game stretch!
Unfortunately for Atlanta, Jalen Johnson left this game in the second quarter after landing on his left wrist due to a Kyle Kuzma foul. Johnson made one of his free throws with one hand but would not return.
The next morning, Shams Charania reported Johnson is expected to miss 4-6 weeks due to a left wrist injury. This significantly hurts the Hawks on both ends, and Johnson’s strong start put him in Most Improved Player conversations. The Hawks will lean on Saddiq Bey and De’Andre Hunter heavily for the next month to keep them afloat while Johnson recovers.
Can Young and the Hawks Weather the Storm?
With Johnson sidelined, the Hawks are significantly smaller, posing rebounding issues and weakening help-side rim protection. In the Boston Celtics’ 113-103 victory over Atlanta on Nov. 27, Boston grabbed a whopping 58 rebounds compared to the Hawks’ 43. In the post-game press conference, Head Coach Quin Snyder said the team has to “gang rebound.”
This comment is intriguing because teams typically play slower on offense when sending more players to the defensive glass; however, Snyder preaches playing with pace. Fans need to watch how many players crash the boards on defense if Atlanta’s offensive pace drops with Johnson out.
Michael Kobrinsky is a writer for Back Sports Page. He studied communication and journalism at North Carolina State University and graduated in May of 2023. Michael lives in Atlanta, GA, and primarily writes basketball content for Back Sports Page. Outside of a career in writing, you can find him playing golf, basketball, and video games. Follow Michael on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pinwizard300.