Hawks exceed expectations in their opening night win over the Mavericks

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There’s no question about it, this is the most hyped up season of Hawks basketball… EVER. After a surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals that was filled with memorable moments, expectations are at an all time high for basketball in Atlanta, yet somehow, the Hawks actually managed to exceed those expectations on opening night.

In front of a packed house at State Farm Arena — in a game that was televised nationally on TNT — Atlanta cruised to a 113-87 win over the Dallas Mavericks. However, it wasn’t just that the Hawks won, it’s the way they won that was so impressive.

We’ve talked all offseason about the depth of this Atlanta team, and it was on full display Thursday night. Nobody scored more than 20 points, yet seven different players scored at least nine. More noteworthy, the Hawks two impressive young wings — the two guys that could really put this team over the top — looked like players that are ready to take the next step.

De’Andre Hunter‘s box score isn’t eye-popping. He dropped just 11 points and snagged three rebounds, but it was his defense on Luka Doncic, who entered the season as the favorite to take home the MVP award, that showed exactly what the Hawks desperately missed in last year’s postseason. Per ESPN’s Stats and Info, the Mavs shot just 1-13 when guarded by Hunter, and Doncic went a miserable 1-7. After the game, the Dallas star acknowledged Hunter’s lockdown defense.

Hunter, who was a defensive stalwart at Virginia, didn’t enter the league as an elite defender right away, but we saw signs of it last year, and after one game, it looks like he’s taken it to another level in Year 3. Solomon Hill said throughout last year’s playoff run that Hunter was the reason he thought the Hawks could go to the Finals. If this is what we can expect from him this season, and he can manage to stay healthy, Atlanta will be a much bigger threat than originally expected, especially if Cam Reddish also continues to perform as he did.

Nobody loves Cam Reddish more than Hawks fans. Not even miserable shooting numbers and a plethora of injuries over his first two seasons can convince Atlanta that he doesn’t have the potential to be a star in this league. He flashed that in the Eastern Conference Finals last season following a lengthy injury layoff, and on opening night, he picked up right where he left off, dropping a team-high 20 points off the bench on 7-15 shooting and 3-4 from behind the arc.

Sure, it’s just one game. There’s no reason for any team to overreact — no matter how good or how poorly they perform — to opening night. However, it’s the way the Hawks won that is so promising. The pieces they need to take the next step looked more confident than ever, and their depth shined bright. This Hawks squad is a team to be reckoned with, and there remains a chip on their shoulder from all of the people who are still doubting them.

Thanks for reading about the Hawks opening night. If you liked this piece, check out another article from Chase on the Hawks recent contract extensions. 

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