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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Apr 4, 2024 7:09 am

Ascending Hawks attempt to subdue Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Atlanta Hawks

If the Atlanta Hawks want to continue building momentum as the season winds to a close, they’ll need to slow Mavericks star Luka Doncic when the two teams meet Thursday night in Dallas.

In their first meeting on Jan. 26, Doncic scored a career-high and franchise-best 73 points in a 148-143 victory in Atlanta. Doncic was 25-for-33 from the floor that night, including eight 3-pointers, and went 15-for-16 from the foul line. Doncic’s total tied for the fourth-most points in NBA history.

Doncic has been hot. He recorded his 20th triple-double of the season in Tuesday’s 104-100 loss to Golden State. He leads the league with an average of 33.9 points per game and has 30-plus points in 48 games.

“He’s playing at a very high level,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said of Doncic. “I think he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s definitely going to be in the discussion of MVP. The group around him, his teammates, are also playing at a high level to help him, and that’s also fun to watch.”

Both teams still are playing to improve their playoff status. Atlanta has won six of its last seven games while Dallas has won 11 of its last 13.

The Hawks (36-40) clinched a spot in the NBA play-in tournament with a 121-113 victory over Detroit on Wednesday. The win moved Atlanta into a tie with Chicago for the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’ve got some games left and we’ll see if we can continue to get better,” Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ll see where it goes.”

Atlanta’s De’Andre Hunter said, “I’m not happy about being in the play-in, but the fact that we have a chance to make it to the playoffs still is good. I think we’re playing our best basketball at the right time. We just need to keep it going.”

Dallas (45-30) is in fifth place in the Western Conference, one-half game ahead of the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans. The Mavericks are two games behind the fourth-place Los Angeles Clippers.

The Mavericks will be without rookie center Dereck Lively. He injured his right knee on Saturday and could miss the remainder of the regular season, Kidd said.

Dallas teammate P.J. Washington said Lively will be missed. “As long as I’ve been here, I’ve seen him take strides and even being better at rebounding, blocking shots and running the floor,” Washington said. “I think he was missed, but it’s next man up mentality and we’ve just got to come and play.”

Atlanta had three players score at least 24 points on Wednesday, including Jalen Johnson with his first career triple-double. Johnson had career highs in points (28) and assists (11) to go with 14 rebounds, four steals and one block. Hunter scored 26 points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field, and Dejounte Murray had 24 points and 11 assists.

It was Johnson’s second game since he missed nine games with knee soreness.

“Jalen’s back and he’s playing really well,” Hunter said. “He had a triple-double and, for myself, I was just making shots.”

–Field Level Media

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