"Thank you for coming out, this is only the beginning," Hawks rookie Trae Young announced to the ruckus crowd in the newly renovated State Farm Arena on Wednesday night.
The Hawks opened the home portion of their season with a 111-104 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The energy could be felt hours before the first tip in the newly renovated arena. It was initially subdued shortly after the opening tip.
The Dallas Mavericks blitzed the Hawks early on, opening lead that ballooned to as high as 26 points in the first half.
"It’s a long game, the NBA is 48 minutes and we’re down 26 with 36 minutes to go, just keep fighting one possession at a time, one play at a time,” Hawks’ head coach Lloyd Pierce said post game. “Offensively, keep moving the ball and make them work defensively, then take a little bit of pride. You see scores like that happen all the time. Whether you go up surrender a lead or if you’re on the other end. With 36 minutes to play, there’s a lot of basketball and our guys know that.”
But slowly and efficiently, the Hawks chipped and banged their way back to a 58-48 deficit at halftime behind Kent Bazemore's 17 points.
The building settled, and hometown star Future performed, and the Hawks came out and lit a fuse with an 8-2 run to open the third quarter.
From then on, State Farm Arena's first night looked a lot like it was expected to with the Hawks earning a their second-straight win.
“I think our energy level picked up and when the game gets tight, naturally your sense of urgency gets heightened and we made just a few more plays than they did down the stretch,” Bazemore said.
Bazemore finished the night with 32 points and seven assists. The Hawks outscored the Mavericks 63-46 over the final two quarters with a lot shooting (Hawks shot 40 3-pointers in the game) and alleys ups. Hawks forward Taurean Prince feels what the Hawks showed in the second-half can be something that becomes more consistent over the next few months and could turn the Hawks into a fun team to play with and watch. That’s easy to say when things are going well, the Hawks showed glimpses on Wednesday of high character when things go bad as well.
“(We can be) very fun,” Prince said. “Everything is good when everything is all good. It’s just about what happens when everything goes bad. You saw are character rise when we were down 20. All we did was get tougher, stronger and smarter. We’re a young team. When you’re going through those type of things it lets you know place.”
The Hawks closed the game with an important stretch by the rookie Young who struggled shooting on the night going 3-for-12 from the floor. Young made six free throws in the final minute to help the Hawks close out the game helping him finish the game with 17 points.
An exchange after a foul between Young and Mavericks’ guard Wesley Matthews sent Hawks’ players quickly to the defense of their rookie point guard. The veterans have made an effort to allow Young to focus on basketball and have vowed to have his back as he tries to grasp the NBA game.
“Trae (Young) knows that any smoke as far as anybody else from the other team, its not his job to get into it,” Prince said. “If it is dealing with him, he’s got other guys to take care of that for him. We want him to focus on nothing but basketball. We want to make sure that he gets everything in his head that he needs to get in his head as our starting point guard. He’s done a phenomenal job.”