NBA: Revamped Hawks contend with Magic, Paolo Banchero
Dejounte Murray looks to build off a successful season debut when the Atlanta Hawks host top overall pick Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Murray collected 20 points, 11 assists and five steals to power the Hawks to a 117-107 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Perhaps more important, Murray didn’t turn the ball over despite playing 38 minutes in his first game since being acquired from the San Antonio Spurs in a blockbuster move in the offseason.
Trae Young, Murray’s new backcourt partner, contributed 23 points and 13 assists in the win for Atlanta. Young and Murray became the third pair of Hawks teammates in franchise history to record at least 20 points and 10 assists in the same game.
That sounds like the makings of a potent tandem, however Murray insists that the Hawks have more fight in them than just the initial 1-2 punch.
“It’s about the Atlanta Hawks, not me and Trae. But we’re going to set the tone and go from there,” Murray said.
John Collins and De’Andre Hunter combined to score 46 points on 19-of-27 shooting from the floor. Onyeka Okongwu added 13 points and nine rebounds off the bench while playing just 21 minutes.
While the offensive numbers were appreciated, Atlanta coach Nate McMillan was happier with the way his club played at the other end of the court. The Hawks held the Rockets to just 42.9 percent shooting and forced 16 turnovers, which resulted in 28 points at the other end of the floor.
“We’ve challenged Trae and all the guys to get better defensively,” McMillan said. “That’s the key to the season.”
Like the Hawks, the Magic also received a breakout performance from a newcomer in their season debut — albeit in a loss.
Banchero collected 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists in Orlando’s 113-109 setback to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. The former Duke star became the third No. 1 overall draft pick since 1969 to record at least 25 points, five boards and five assists in his NBA debut, joining Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James.
That’s pretty impressive company for the 19-year-old Banchero, who cast a critical eye when assessing his performance.
“I left a lot of points on the board, like three layups missed, some shots I feel like I could have made, so a lot to work on,” Banchero said. “But I wasn’t disappointed with the way I played.”
Banchero likely wasn’t disappointed with his emphatic one-handed dunk in transition over Pistons guard Cory Joseph early in the fourth quarter, either.
Jalen Suggs added 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor before fouling out. Franz Wagner chipped in 20 points and five assists, however Orlando was unable to capitalize on a 15-point lead before falling to Detroit.
The Magic lost three of four meetings to the Hawks last season en route to posting the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Young averaged 24.3 points and 5.3 assists in three encounters against Orlando last season.
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