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Dejounte Murray Emerges as a March POTM Candidate

Dejounte Murray Hawks
(Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

When the Atlanta Hawks lost Trae Young on Feb. 23 due to finger ligament surgery, it looked like the team was headed for disaster. To make matters worse, Atlanta suffered injuries to Jalen Johnson (ankle), Onyeka Okongwu (toe) and Saddiq Bey (ACL). The Hawks have met the challenge in front of them and stayed afloat under the leadership of Dejounte Murray. Atlanta’s star guard led his squad to an 8-7 record in March, including two impressive victories against the NBA-leading Boston Celtics.


Murray’s Magnificent March

Without Young, Murray has taken the lion’s share of the usage of 30.7%. Before Young went down, the former San Antonio Spurs guard carried a usage of 25.2%. In March, Murray is averaging 26.7 points, 3.9 threes, and 2.1 steals per game. He also shot 38.1% from beyond the arc on 10.3 attempts per game. His March includes three 40-point games against the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Celtics.

Multiple Hawks players have commended Murray for his leadership during this impressive run.

“He [Murray] leads us every night. He does everything on the floor for us… plays defense… I’m always happy for him when he does well,” said De’Andre Hunter after the first victory against Boston.

Murray’s status was questionable heading into the second matchup against the Celtics due to back soreness. However, Bogdan Bogdanović did not doubt the Hawks’ starting point guard’s availability.

“One thing about DJ, he never quits… whenever I see he’s questionable, I’m like, ‘he’s good,’” joked Atlanta’s three-point marksman.


Murray Drains a Game-Winner and Shouts Out Kobe Bryant

On March 25, Hawks fans were treated to the ninth triumphant 30-point comeback victory in NBA history against Boston. Hunter knocked down a clutch three to seal the victory for Atlanta. Murray’s playmaking was on full display as he disheveled a career-high 15 dimes.

Three days later, the Hawks went toe-to-toe against the Celtics’ healthy starting lineup. There were 40 lead changes, and the biggest lead was only eight points. Murray was aggressive right as the game tipped off. The Celtics switched a lot to cover Atlanta’s pick-and-roll, leaving Kristaps Porziņģis to defend Murray in space. The Hawks’ point guard got to his signature mid-range shot whenever he wanted. As a result of these mismatches, Murray took a whopping 44 field goal attempts.

After Bogdanović hit a clutch triple to tie the game late in regulation, Murray took over in the extra period. He outscored Boston by himself 11-10 and hit a game-winning mid-range shot with 0.1 seconds left on the clock to seal Atlanta’s fourth consecutive victory. He scored a career-high 42 points in the victory.

“I still feel like I played awful. I don’t want to take that many shots, but I know Kobe would be proud of me,” Murray said after the game.

Murray set the franchise record in shot attempts, overtaking Bob Petit’s 43. He joined a short list of only 12 other players to take at least 44 field goal attempts in a game. The last player to do it was Russell Westbrook in the 2016-2017 season.


Setting Up the Playoff Picture

Atlanta is firmly in the play-in tournament. They will likely have to win two games to advance into the playoffs and set up a potential series against the Celtics. However, the Hawks are getting hot at the right time. If Young, Johnson, and Okongwu come back before the postseason, their confidence will only increase.

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