Hawks’ Young comes “home” to Oklahoma City
For the Hawks’ Trae Young, it will be his first NBA trip back to his home state.
Young grew up about 20 miles south of Chesapeake Energy Arena in Norman and starred last year in his only collegiate season at Oklahoma before making the leap to the NBA after being the No. 5 overall pick.
Young is leading the Hawks with 15.9 points and 7.6 assists per game.
On the other side, it’ll be first game against the Hawks for Thunder guard Dennis Schroder.
The point guard spent his first five NBA seasons in Atlanta before an offseason trade brought him to the Thunder, where he has served as Russell Westbrook’s backup, though he is seeing plenty of playing time with Westbrook on the floor.
“In Atlanta I just handled it, probably every possession,” Schroder said. “And now it’s great to have two, three guys who can create with me at the same time on the court.”
Lately Schroder has seen an uptick in his 3-point shooting, raising his season average to nearly 35 percent from behind the arc. Schroder entered the season as a 32-percent career 3-point shooter.
“When he gets shots when he’s got his legs under him, he has a clean look and he’s balanced, I think he’s a very good shooter,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters. “I think because of Russell being out there, because of Paul (George) being out there, some of those situations have been created more for him.”
Donovan said Schroder’s improved shooting will lift other parts of his game as well.
“The threat of him shooting it opens up the threat of what he does great, which is get in the lane and penetrate,” Donovan said.
Oklahoma City comes into the game having won 13 of its last 16 games. Now the Thunder start a soft spot in the schedule with four consecutive games against Eastern Conference teams – and three of those teams rank in the bottom 10 in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions.
After snapping a 10-game losing streak, the Hawks have won two of their last three.
“We were trying to get on the same page,” Atlanta veteran guard Kent Bazemore said. “We were reeling for some wins. I don’t even remember how many it was, but at some point, the weakness of man is the ability to not communicate. We got a lot of things off our chest — coaches and players alike.”
Bazemore has been a big part of that recent success, even if it is a small sample size so far.
Since being moved out of the starting lineup Nov. 25 against Charlotte, Bazemore has averaged 13.3 points per game.
Hawks forward Alex Poythress will miss his seventh consecutive game with an ankle injury. Center Dewayne Dedmon is listed as probable with ankle soreness while guard Jeremy Lin is listed as questionable with ankle soreness as well.