Murray’s 29 help Hawks finish strong, beat Knicks 139-124
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks are gaining momentum in the Eastern Conference and their high-scoring guards are leading the way.
Dejounte Murray had 29 points and 12 assists, Trae Young added 27 points and the streaking Hawks pulled away at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the New York Knicks 139-124 on Friday night.
The Hawks (24-22), eighth in the Eastern Conference, extended their season-best winning streak to five games.
Julius Randle had 32 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks but was held scoreless in the final period.
Murray has scored 27 or more points in four consecutive games. Young had six assists and has averaged more than nine assists in the winning streak.
“We want to be the best for each other and the best for our teammates,” Murray said. “We’ve got to be consistent. We’ve got to continue to want the best for each other and continue to make our teammates better.”
Hawks coach Nate McMillan said Young “has done a nice job of really initiating the offense” and added that Murray has “been on fire” during the winning streak.
“We’ve been playing really good, just taking what the defense is giving us,” Young said. “... Guys are knocking down shots, just playing free basketball.”
Atlanta acquired Murray from San Antonio before the season, and the pairing of the two All-Star guards required an adjustment.
“They’re playing at a very high level right now,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. “They’re sharing the ball and playing well together.”
De’Andre Hunter had 20 points and Okongwu scored 14 off the bench.
Atlanta led only 102-101 before opening the fourth quarter with a 20-4 run that was capped by back-to-back inside baskets by Onyeka Okongwu. The Hawks outscored the Knicks 37-23 in the period.
RJ Barrett scored 23 points for the seventh-place Knicks (25-22), who have a three-game losing streak.
Jericho Sims started at center in New York’s first game since losing Mitchell Robinson for at least three weeks. Robinson had surgery Thursday to repair his fractured right thumb suffered in Wednesday’s 116-105 loss to Washington.
Thibodeau was not happy with the Knicks’ defense.
“You give up 139, credit to them, they’re playing great basketball right now,” said Thibodeau of the Hawks. “But we’re not going to win a game like that. ... We’re not playing great defense and we’ve got to get back to that.”
The Hawks had center Clint Capela return this week after missing 10 consecutive games with a calf injury. McMillan said the return to the starting lineup of Capela, whose playing time has been restricted in his three games back in uniform, was important to Atlanta’s defense.
Even with Capela on the court, the Knicks still drove to the basket with consistency while making 30 of 42 shots from the field (71.4%) in the first half.
The Knicks led 71-68 at halftime, with 38 points in the paint. Atlanta opened the second half with a 13-0 run, including nine points by Young.
A 3-pointer by Young gave the Hawks a big lead of 13 points at 87-74 before the Knicks cut the deficit to 102-101 entering the final period.
MISSING ROBINSON’S REBOUNDS
The 7-foot Robinson is averaging 7.2 points and 8.9 rebounds. Thibodeau said Robinson’s rebounds were missed as the Hawks took a 39-34 advantage on the boards.
“The rebounding was a problem right from the start and that was a concern,” Thibodeau said.
Sims had 12 points and eight rebounds while sharing time with Isaiah Hartenstein, who had two points and six rebounds.
Thibodeau said he “went back and forth” in deciding whether to start Sims or Hartenstein, who had been Robinson’s top backup. “Part of it was to keep some unity to the second unit,” Thibodeau said.
Knicks: Randle had three 3-pointers in the strong finish to the third period. Overall, New York made 13 of 30 3s, including 3 of 10 by Randle. ...
Hawks: G Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee soreness) had 14 points off the bench with his knee wrapped after he was listed as questionable in the first of back-to-back games. “We knew that coming into the season that would be something we would have to monitor,” McMillan said. “We have to look at back-to-back situations.” ...
Knicks: At Toronto on Sunday.
Hawks: Host Charlotte on Saturday.
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