The Atlanta Hawks found some bumps in the road following a long winning streak, but that did little to diminish Trae Young’s overall numbers.
Young, who is scheduled to make the second NBA All-Star Game start of his career on Sunday in Cleveland when he suits up for Team Durant, barely missed a sixth consecutive points/assists double-double on Tuesday as his 41 points and nine assists powered the host Hawks to a 124-116 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Atlanta concludes a back-to-back at Orlando on Wednesday night in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break. The Hawks and Magic play for the fourth and final time this season, with Atlanta holding a 2-1 series edge.
The Hawks enjoyed seven straight wins during one January stretch, but they are just 3-5 over the last eight games. Young had a straightforward response following a 15-point home loss to San Antonio last Friday.
“Besides just the fact we’ve got to have a better start, starters gotta play better,” he said. “You just gotta come out and just play better.”
The Hawks were much better on Tuesday as they moved within three games of the .500 mark. Atlanta played without second-leading scorer John Collins (strained right foot), while Lou Williams tied Dell Curry for the most career games (984) played off the bench in league history.
The Magic have won nine of the last 16 regular-season meetings with Atlanta at home. But it was the Hawks who emerged victorious in Orlando on Dec. 15 as Young scored 28 points in a 111-99 win.
Orlando returns home after going 1-3 on a challenging West Coast trip. The Magic started strong with an 18-point win in Portland on Feb. 8, but double-digit losses to Utah, Phoenix and Denver followed within a four-day span.
The Magic had a 41-point fourth quarter on Monday in Denver, but it was not enough to overcome a 13-point halftime deficit. The Nuggets also led 29-14 after the opening period in an eventual 121-111 victory.
Rookie Franz Wagner had the fifth-highest scoring game of his career with 26 points, including a 3-for-7 effort from beyond the arc, to go along with eight rebounds and four assists. Atlanta native Wendell Carter Jr. added 25 points and 12 rebounds for his team-high 24th double-double and Jalen Suggs totaled 16 points (6-for-6 free throws) and six rebounds.
Monday’s game also marked Gary Harris’ first time playing in Denver since being traded to the Magic in March of 2021 along with R.J. Hampton. Harris had 15 points, six assists and a season-high-tying four steals in 37 minutes off the bench, while Hampton missed his 13th straight game with an injured left knee.
Orlando had 10 more points in the paint and eight fewer turnovers than Denver, but the Nuggets made up for it with 16 3-pointers and 21 made free throws.
The Magic committed 63 total turnovers on the four-game road swing, including 18 in a 114-99 loss to Utah.
“We gotta get better at taking care of that basketball,” Orlando head coach Jamahl Mosley said postgame Monday. “We gave some points away early (against Denver) and gave the ball away early, but these guys continue to fight no matter what and that’s that competitive spirit that we’re continuing to build with this group of young men.”
Wednesday marks the first leg of a four-game homestand for the Magic that includes a meeting with Houston (Feb. 25) and a back-to-back set against Indiana (Feb. 28 and March 2).
–Field Level Media