Point guards take center stage in Hornets-Hawks battle

NBA Basketball

Two of the NBA’s top young point guards will face off Saturday as the Atlanta Hawks look to extend their winning streak to four games when they host the Charlotte Hornets.

Atlanta has won all three games since returning home from an 0-4 Western road trip. The Hawks beat the Boston Celtics 110-99 on Wednesday.

Charlotte extended its winning streak to five and completed a 4-0 homestand with a 121-118 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday. The Hornets begin a three-game road trip in Atlanta.

Hawks point guard Trae Young averages 25.1 points and 9.2 assists. He has scored 30-plus points five times and has seven double-doubles, most recently producing 18 points and 11 assists against the Celtics. However, that ended his streak of nine straight games with at least 20 points.

Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball averages 18.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.5 assists. He had 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists against the Pacers on Friday.

Last season against the Hawks, Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. He was 19 at the time.

This is the first of four meetings between the two Southeast Division teams. Charlotte won two of three meetings with Atlanta in 2020-21.

Atlanta continues to be one of the league’s top teams on its home court. The Hawks are 6-1 at home and have won 13 straight home games against Eastern Conference opponents.

“These are games we know we have to win,” Atlanta guard Kevin Huerter said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’ve still got a lot of ground to make up.”

The Hawks have been encouraged by the progress of Cam Reddish, who was limited to 26 regular-season games in 2020-21 because of an injury to his right Achilles tendon. Reddish has become a reliable force off the bench, on both offense and defense. He is averaging 11.6 points and 2.9 rebounds, and his role continues to increase.

“I’m always trying to tell Cam ‘aggressive intelligence,'” Atlanta forward John Collins said. “Calmness, but still try to attack. Not saying it was because of me, but you’re just starting to see his game slow down. And when he does slow down and finally pick his spots, the game is so easy for that dude. That’s what we want to see more of because it helps him, it helps us. We just want to win, so we’re trying to keep pushing Cam.”

The Hornets learned a lesson on Friday when they nearly blew a 25-point, third-quarter lead, nearly allowing Indiana to send the game into overtime.

“That is something I have to look at to see if I could have kept them more in attack mode,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “We still want to maintain an aggressive mentality; that is what got us the lead. I’ve seen this countless times in the NBA. It is a long 48-minute game. You don’t want to take your foot off the gas.”

That’s rarely a problem for Ball, who had 21 points in the first half but committed the turnover that gave Indiana a chance to tie the game in the final seconds.

“I just felt like I wanted to be more aggressive,” Ball said.

–Field Level Media

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