Young scores 41 in homecoming as Hawks top Thunder 136-118
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — For once, Trae Young didn’t have to play his usual role of villain on the road.
Young had 41 points and eight assists in a warm homecoming, and his Atlanta Hawks rolled past the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-118 on Wednesday night.
Young, who grew up in Norman and played at the University of Oklahoma for one season, made 13 of 24 field goals and 11 of 12 free throws in three quarters of action. He put on a show for a crowd that started cheering for him during pregame introductions and kept it going throughout the game.
“It’s different, for sure,” Young said. “I don’t get that very often. But I know there’s a lot of Sooner Nation love in here, a lot of people who grew up watching me play at Norman North High School and things like that.”
Kevin Huerter and Bogdan Bogdanovic each scored 20 points for the Hawks, who won their third straight and strengthened their hold on the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Atlanta is averaging 129.7 points during the win streak.
Lindy Waters III scored a career-high 25 points and tied a Thunder rookie record with seven 3-pointers.
Young and Waters were high school teammates at Norman North and rivals when Young played for Oklahoma and Waters played for Oklahoma State.
“It’s crazy,” Young said. “It’s kind of surreal, to be honest with you. Growing up — we’ve known each other since first, second grade. Always playing with each other, competing against each other in college. We’re both very similar as far as competitive nature.”
Young and Waters met and talked at midcourt after the game.
“It was a really cool moment, for sure,” Waters said. “I haven’t really got to have a conversation with him for a while — at least since high school. It was all love. Great to see him doing big things. But two kids from Norman meeting back up in the league — it’s amazing.”
Theo Maledon added 18 points and eight assists for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City only had eight players available. The team recently shut down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (sore right ankle), Josh Giddey (sore right hip) and Darius Bazley (fractured right knee) for the season and had already shut down Lu Dort (left shoulder surgery).
“We knew that they were without a lot of their guys, but we needed to send a message to ourselves to play this game the right way and be focused and build off of what we’ve done in the last few games,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We can see the end now, and every game, it’s important that you build that rhythm, you find that rhythm.”
Young made his first five shots. He scored 19 points in the first quarter to help the Hawks take a 42-24 lead.
The Hawks rolled in the second quarter and led 85-58 at halftime. It was a season high for points in a half for Atlanta. Young scored 30 before the break on 9-of-13 shooting.
Atlanta hit 100 points with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Young’s final point came on a free throw in the closing seconds of the third after he was fouled on a made floater.
Hawks: Shot 61.7% from the field in the first half and 63.2% from 3-point range. ... Had just four turnovers in the first half. ... F/C Onyeka Okongwu grabbed 13 rebounds.
Thunder: Waters scored 14 points in the first half. ... Aleksej Pokusevski had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Huerter, on wins over the Pacers and Thunder: “Obviously, we need them. This was a road trip where both teams were behind us in the standings, both teams I guess weren’t looking to win and two games that we needed to get. We came out here, and the mindset the last two games was right.”
Huerter has scored at least 20 points in three straight games after posting just five such games previously this season. During the stretch, he is averaging 20.7 points on 57.5% shooting from the field. He has taken advantage of more scoring opportunities with John Collins (sprained finger, strained right foot) and Danilo Gallinari (bruised right elbow) out.
Hawks: Host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
Thunder: Host the Detroit Pistons on Friday.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP