The Hawks have endured quite a whirlwind of recent media pressure and outside observer speculation before traveling to Indiana. It was reported that he was in the process of finalizing a deal to make him the organization’s assistant general manager. form a tandem.
Later, an article by Sam Amick of The Athletic detailed some of the decision-making processes that led to the destabilization of the front office. This includes the resignation of many high profile officials within the organization’s operations and scout structure.
Needless to say, the players were looking forward to leaving this outside noise behind when they hit the courts in Indiana. For 48 minutes it was a game of chaos with every second decided by him, but with just 0.7 seconds left John Collins chipped in and ultimately decided the outcome for the visiting Hawks. 113-111.
The big story was the career day of Onyeka Okongwu, who will stand in for the injured Clint Capela. It was the 12th of 13 games as Capela missed his 9th straight game, and Okonw tallied his 18 points, his career-high 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals. The Hawks needed some of his contribution. His seven offensive rebounds alone set a career-high for a big man in three years.
The Indiana Pacers, with Miles Turner and Daniel Theis also missing through injury, were two big bodies that could have punished Atlanta’s undersize, and no Capela. Okonwu’s credit is rolling to the rim and using post movement to find space for his shots, as seen in the clip below.
Okongwu often displayed his finesse and footwork. Like this nifty dribble his handoff his handoff, for example, faked one way, spun the other way, freed under the basket. He posted 14 of 18 points in the first quarter alone before the Pacers made the necessary adjustments.
“[Onyeka Okongwu] Head coach Nate McMillan explained the 39 minutes scored in Indianapolis on Friday night. I needed a rebound.
Defensively, Okonwu was also a major force during the contest, blocking four shots and changing many others. It was a big one that tracked Carl towards and made a low layup attempt.
And here’s one more thing, this time at the expense of Andrew Nemhard to help kick off Dejounte Murray’s easy bucket fast.
“He’s substituted, trapped and done a lot for us on the defensive side of the floor,” continued McMillan of Center. “I thought he did a really good job of taking advantage of the little putt. [player] “
Atlanta and Indiana were involved in a hard-fought battle all night long, with the lead swinging from side to side as both teams traded scores. The teams exchanged leads 12 times and drew 11 times.
As a team, the Hawks shot 16-for-33 (49%) from three-point lands, while the Pacers were just 7-for-30 (23%). The Hawks gave up dribbling penetration all night, but lost a huge 64 points in the paint along the way.
De’Andre Hunter had another big night as well, going 6-9 (67%) in three games. Six triples – all of the catch-and-shoot variety – tied a forward’s career high. He finished with 25 points in part of a very hot game for Hunter.
“Dre” was able to find spacing that worked for Trae Young, Dejounte Murray and even Onyeka Okongwu at times, shooting confidently from distance. In this clip below, the Pacers are worried about Trae Young coming out of double-screen action where Hunters can calmly fade to the three-point line for an easy attempt.
With Okongwu on the move, the Pacers loaded to fight him at the post. Here, defender Buddy Hield put both feet in the paint to help Okongwu while Murray handed the pass to Hunter to score.
Trae Young had a great night as well, but with a strange margin. Young finished 6-10 (60%) from behind the arc, but 0-6 from inside the arc. Still, he did an admirable job of opening up the Pacers’ defense with a quick shot release in space, or pulling the defense in with a drive before kicking the ball out.
John Collins’ tip-in with less than a second left saved what was becoming a very forgettable outing for him. Collins was just off the floor to that point, he was 1-for-8 (13%), but his vigilance and offensive effort on his glass never wavered.
It was a desperate possession from the start, and over time Trae Young double-teamed far from the basket. Seeing a 4-for-3 numbers advantage on potential offensive rebounds with a sliver of the clock remaining, Young heaves from long range. After Murray missed a follow-up attempt, Collins swooped in and saved the day.
“John [Collins] Coach McMillan said of Collins’ ruff showing up until the final offensive possession. “We put him back in the second half and tried to get a sub [Bogdan Bogdanovic] I would try to go defensive rather than offensive because I needed help on the board. [Okongwu]and he eventually finished the game, making his biggest play in tonight’s game.
The Hawks (20-22) desperately needed a win in the standings as well as a win to erase some of the negative energy surrounding the organization. While it seems to remain in flux as to the franchise’s future direction, players have taken part in a number of road contests in recent years and have shown battles even when easily counted. The Hawks have little time to think about this win, as they soon face off against the Toronto Raptors in the North.