Judging Wednesday’s performance, nobody would guess the Atlanta Hawks came into its 132-100 blowout win at Phoenix with a losing record and having lost four of five games.
“We wanted to win really bad and knew it had to start on the defensive end,” Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray said. “The defense took care of the offense.”
That happened early and often, leading to a result that made the Hawks look like the team that won five in a row before their recent slide.
The Hawks shot over 57 percent from the field (52 for 91) and from 3-point range (19 for 33). The Suns were limited to 40.7 percent shooting overall while only connecting on 4 of 28 from 3-point range.
Murray scored 21, Trae Young contributed 20 points and 12 assists, Bogdan Bogdanovic had 18 points and Onyeka Okongwu hit all seven field-goal attempts en route to 17 points for the Hawks, who evened their record to 26-26.
“When you’re getting downhill, moving the ball, sharing the ball, things like that can happen,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought (Wednesday) we did a good job moving the ball and getting it to the open man.”
Atlanta will continue its five-game road trip in Salt Lake City on Friday against the Utah Jazz, who also are coming off a nice - albeit more competitive -- win.
Lauri Markkanen led Utah with 28 points and 13 rebounds, while rookie Walker Kessler amassed 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots in Utah’s 131-128 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
“A good team win against a hard-playing, really physical team,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “Our emphasis in the second half was to maintain our space, make early decisions, don’t over-dribble, and rebound as a team.
“Overall, I thought our initial physicality in the game was great and helped us maintain our mindset and aggressiveness throughout the game. We matched their physicality.”
Jordan Clarkson added 23 points, with Mike Conley totaling 19 points, including a pair of late clutch free throws, and eight assists. His three-point play put Utah up 120-113 with 2:13 left.
“It was a big play and I think it got us going enough able to finish the game,” Conley said.
Malik Beasley (14 points) and Collin Sexton (12) also hit double digits in scoring.
“Six guys in double figures, those nights are always indicators to me that a lot of guys were making plays. The guys executed well,” Hardy said. “I thought our ball movement was tremendous. We give ourselves a chance in what seems to be a season of close games.”
One of those games happened in Atlanta on Nov. 9 when the Jazz blew a 15-point lead before edging the Hawks 125-119. Utah outscored Atlanta 40-29 in the fourth quarter to rally for the win.
Markkanen topped all scorers in that one with 32 points while draining six of Utah’s 17 3-pointers. Those two themes -- Markkanen scoring a lot and the Jazz hitting a bunch of 3s -- remain in place for the Jazz three months later.
“That’s kind of our thing,” Markkanen said at the time. “We keep the ball popping and everybody is having fun. Just keep having fun. Keep knocking them down.”