Hawks, minus Trae Young, try to keep momentum at Nets

The Atlanta Hawks survived nicely in their first game without Trae Young by providing plenty of offense and some of their best defense of the season.

If the Hawks can deliver a pair of repeat performances in their next two games, they can improve their positioning in the play-in tournament race and push the Brooklyn Nets even further out of the picture.

Atlanta has two chances starting Thursday when it visits the struggling Nets for the first of two games as part of an extended stay in New York.

The Hawks are 4-3 this season without Young and 10th in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Chicago Bulls.

In the first game since losing the star for at least four weeks because of a torn ligament in his left pinky, Atlanta cruised to a 124-97 rout of the visiting Utah Jazz on Tuesday. It marked the third time Atlanta allowed fewer than 100 points while allowing a season-low 37.2 percent shooting.

“I think, other than we had some stretches where particularly live-ball turnovers, those are normally hard to defend against,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said.

“But when we got set, I thought, you know we did a better job staying in front of the ball and, our bigs came over and contested shots, and were able to rebound. So, it’s playing through a whole possession. So, I think we’re helping each other more.”

Atlanta will play three straight road games without getting on a flight since it visits the New York Knicks next Tuesday after the two contests in Brooklyn. The Hawks are a respectable 8-5 in their past 13 games since a four-game losing streak Jan. 22-24.

Without Young, five players scored in double figures, including Jalen Johnson, who notched his fourth straight double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds. De’Andre Hunter added 20 for his fifth game with at least 20 points since returning from a knee injury on Jan. 30.

Atlanta is also hoping to see another steady performance from Bogdan Bogdanovic and Dejounte Murray. Bogdanovic contributed 19 while Murray finished with 17 and 11 assists for his third straight double-double.

The Nets enter interim coach Kevin Ollie’s first home game trailing the Hawks by four games. Brooklyn is 1-3 since Ollie replaced Jacque Vaughn, and its past four losses are by a combined 121 points.

Mikal Bridges hit the game-winning jumper with five seconds remaining in Brooklyn’s 114-113 win in Atlanta on Dec. 6 but was held to single digits for the third time this season when he shot 2-for-13 and scored four points in Tuesday’s 108-81 loss to the Orlando Magic.

Bridges turned in his worst showing of the season by going 0-for-7 from 3-point range, and he is 2-for-25 from behind the arc in his past three games. His quiet night occurred when Cam Thomas sat out with a sore ankle that could keep him out again Thursday.

“We’ve just gotta be prepared,” Brooklyn center Nic Claxton said. “Tonight is inexcusable, and we gotta have our energy right from the jump. They came out and they were at 10 and we weren’t there.”

The Nets played without Ben Simmons due to the game being the second of a back-to-back but he could play Thursday. Simmons could come off the bench again after Dennis Schroder was elevated to the starting lineup and scored 33 points in his past two games.

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