The Sacramento Kings routed the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 1 at the newly renovated State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. The 146-115 loss brings the Hawks to a season record of 2-6 while the Kings improve to 6-3.
The Kings led the Hawks 69-64 by the end of the first half with high energy on the defensive end, forcing 13 Hawks turnovers and racking up nine steals. Rookie point guard Trae Young had a team-high of five turnovers in the first half.
The Kings started off strong in the third quarter, outscoring the Hawks 46-23 en route to a 115-87 lead. Sacramento scored 31 more points in the fourth quarter with most of their starters on the bench.
Hawks Head Coach Lloyd Pierce noted that defense was the Hawks’ main weakness this season.
“We know what we can do,” Pierce said in a postgame interview. “You take our stat sheet out and it looks pretty good. So you know there are things that are there when we play well. We’ve got to figure out how to do it on the defensive end.”
The Kings were unstoppable offensively, scoring several fast break baskets, many of them after one of the Hawks’ 22 turnovers. Throughout the game, the Kings infiltrated the paint at will, usually converting inside or dishing back out for a three-pointer. The team finished the game with 38 assists.
The Hawks shot poorly from the three-point line, making only eight of 31 three-point field goal attempts. They also missed 11 free throws, going 23-34 from the line. Point guard Jeremy Lin led the Hawks in scoring, dropping 23 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Young had 14 points and 10 assists, but made zero three-pointers and eight turnovers in only 27 minutes.
Lin acknowledged that the team has often struggled in the third quarter this season and that they frequently find themselves playing behind.
“We just struggled,” Lin said in a postgame interview. “I felt like we ran out of gas or it just didn’t feel like our spirit was there today. … If you don’t have the spirit [and] if you don’t have the defense, your offense won’t flow as well and you’re not going to get wins in this league.”
The promising young backcourt duo of Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox led the Kings’ offense. Hield, a third-year shooting guard out of the University of Oklahoma, scored 27 points on 10 of 17 shooting, including five of seven from three-point range. Fox, the Kings’ point guard and top draft pick out of the University of Kentucky in the 2017 NBA Draft, recorded a monster triple-double, scoring 31 points, dishing out 15 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds in the win.
The Kings have surprised most of the league this season and are currently the fifth seed in the stacked Western Conference; they are fourth in the league in points per game at 119.8 and boast the fifth-highest defensive rating at 107.8.
The Hawks bounced back on Nov. 3 against the Miami Heat, winning 123-118. Young had a solid game, scoring 24 points, dishing out a career-high 15 assists and grabbing five rebounds in the win.
The latest game puts him in elite company, as Young becomes one of four rookies in the past 25 years with a stat line of at least 20/15/5. The other four rookies are reigning Kia Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry and NBA veteran Ramon Sessions.
The Hawks fell back into the loss column against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 6, losing 113-102. Hornets’ star point guard Kemba Walker continued his hot start to the season, recording 29 points and 7 assists. Young impressed again, posting another double-double with 18 points and 11 assists.
Young currently leads all rookies in assists with 7.9 per game and is second to only Dallas Mavericks’ forward Luka Dončić in points per game with 19.1.
The Hawks will play on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. against the New York Knicks at State Farm Arena.