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Monday, Nov 29, 2021

Hawks, rest of NBA finish preseason in surprisingly dramatic fashion

<p>Atlanta Hawks star point guard Trae Young.</p>

Atlanta Hawks star point guard Trae Young.

The Atlanta Hawks capped off a mixed preseason with a 127-92 win over the Miami Heat in Thursday's matchup. The final tune-up offered a window into the regular season for Atlanta, which will begin with an Oct. 21 matchup against the Dallas Mavericks.

The Heat, who were without two-way star Jimmy Butler, struggled for any rhythm throughout the game as they were thoroughly beaten by a confident Atlanta squad.

Trae Young was his usual excellent self, producing 27 points and 15 assists. Both Deandre Hunter and Cam Reddish came out firing, notching 19 and 12 points respectively to back up Young.

Head Coach Nate McMillan was particularly impressed with Hunter, noting his impressive play on both sides of the court.

“You don’t find many (good) two-way players in this league, and Dre is one of them,” McMillan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the game. “He’s going to defend just as hard as he’s going to look to score. He plays the game the right way.”

Team expectations have been reset after the Hawks’ surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, with a playoff run now anticipated as a minimum goal. With other Eastern Conference teams like the Heat strengthening significantly during free agency, however, there are concerns that the Hawks will struggle to replicate their performance last season.

Elsewhere, the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks fell to a disappointing 114-103 loss to the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks. Despite their 4-1 record this preseason, this was an unexpected defeat, especially as both Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and two-way stud Jrue Holiday were both active.

On the flip side, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a terrible preseason, going 0-6 against the Nets, Suns, Warriors and Kings. Despite the additions of both Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers have struggled to put together consistent performances over 48 minutes.

In regards to drama off the court, the ongoing saga concerning Kyrie Irving and the COVID-19 vaccine looks set to continue. The Nets superstar has consistently expressed his desire to remain unvaccinated.

"I chose to be unvaccinated, and that was my choice, and I would ask y'all just to respect that choice,” Irving said in an Instagram live video. “And no I'm not retiring, and no I'm not leaving this game like this.”

Looking at this year’s rookies, there have been a number of standout performers in preseason and Summer League, including Sacramento’s Davion Mitchell and Toronto’s Scottie Barnes.

As for impressive team performances, the Golden State Warriors have gone 5-0 despite the continued absence of star Klay Thompson. Other teams, such as the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings, have had impressive preseasons. Both teams are 4-0 respectively.

The Hawks open their season at home in State Farm Arena Oct. 21.


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