Don’t look now, but the Hawks team that made an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals last year has arrived. On Wednesday, they had an opportunity to win their fifth straight, inching closer to the .500 mark on the season, and they didn’t disappoint the home crowd.
Coming off a couple of days rest and four straight wins, it would have been easy for the Hawks to come out with lackadaisical effort against a bottom-feeder team like the Kings. At least, that was par for the course for Atlanta during the first half of the season. It has been one step forward and two steps back for months with this team, but Wednesday was another sign that they may have finally turned the corner.
Following a slow start that saw the Kings lead by 12 after one quarter, the Hawks picked up the intensity on both ends led by inspiring efforts from Onyeka Okongwu and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Okongwu, who is back serving in his reserve role since Clint Capela returned, continues to make his case for more minutes. He was a difference maker on both ends, but it was these types of plays that changed the entire feeling in the building.
Onyeka Okongwu is cut from a different cloth! pic.twitter.com/kFLAjL5NZG
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) January 27, 2022
Okongwu finished the night with 18 points and seven rebounds. If the Hawks are going to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals, or even further, his continued development will be key.
Another critical piece to the puzzle is Bogdanovic, who returned to the court for the first time since January 14th, and did so in style. His hot shooting helped turn the tide in the second quarter, finishing the half with a team-high 16 points. Bogdanovic hasn’t looked like the same guy this season that was the second best offensive player for the Hawks at the end of last season, but injuries and COVID have played a large part in that. If he can regain form down the stretch, it adds another element to an already potent Hawks offense.
Atlanta would go on to win the second quarter 46-17, opening up a 17-point lead, and they never turned back. The Hawks opened the second half on an 8-0 run before cruising to a 121-104.
Trae Young chipped in 17 points and 10 assists, but he was the only starter to reach double figures. This one was all about the bench, which continues to look better as the team gets healthy. On Friday, the Hawks look to extend their win streak to six against the Celtics.
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