ATLANTA (AP) — Dejounte Murray and Trae Young displayed what Atlanta coach Quin Snyder called a “connectivity” in the backcourt against the Cleveland Cavaliers that could be important for the Hawks’ postseason hopes.
Murray sank three free throws with 2:14 remaining to give Atlanta the lead and added a fall-away jumper with less than a minute left to lead the Hawks to a 120-118 win over the short-handed Cavaliers on Tuesday night.
Murray led Atlanta with 29 points and Onyeka Okongwu added a season-high 21. Young, usually Atlanta’s top scorer, had 16 points with 10 assists and only one second-half turnover.
“I thought they played off each other and there was a connectivity there that was important to the team,” Snyder said.
The Hawks remained tied with Toronto, which beat Miami 106-92 on Tuesday night, for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Murray said the Hawks know there’s no room for home losses with only six games remaining in the regular season.
“Just knowing we’re in a must-win situation, trying just to control the Atlanta Hawks,” Murray said. “We came out ready to play for 48 minutes and got a great win.”
The Cavaliers held out starting forward Isaac Okoro (left knee soreness) and center Jarrett Allen (strained right groin) and were led by Donovan Mitchell’s 44 points. Mitchell tied LeBron James’ Cavaliers record of 10 games of 40-or-more points in a season.
With Atlanta’s win, NBA- and Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee clinched the Central Division title.
After Murray’s jumper gave Atlanta a 119-115 advantage, Mitchell’s 3-pointer cut the lead to one point. Mitchell missed another 3 with 12.5 seconds remaining. After Young made one of two free throws with 3 seconds remaining, Mitchell’s last-gasp 3-pointer from beyond half court hit the back iron.
The Cavaliers, who were knocked out of last season’s Eastern Conference play-in tournament by Atlanta, locked up their first playoff spot since 2018 by beating Houston 108-91 on Sunday.
Mitchell passed 10,000 career points in his reunion with Snyder, the former Utah coach. Mitchell played for Snyder for five seasons (2017-22) in Utah. Snyder was hired by Atlanta on Feb. 26, after the Hawks fired Nate McMillan.
Mitchell began the night 13 points away from 10,000 points and passed the mark on a layup to open the second half.
GUARDING AGAINST FREE THROWS
Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said before the game a goal was to limit Young’s trips to the free-throw line. “He does such a good job of putting you in harm’s way,” Bickerstaff said. Young made 6 of 9 free throws.
Meanwhile, Okongwu made 11 of 12 free throws.
“I told him after the game he’s got to go 12 for 12,” Snyder said.
PRAISE FOR MITCHELL
After the game, Snyder said “it was kind of strange seeing (Mitchell) on the other team.”
Snyder said he is not surprised to see Mitchell, who is averaging a career-best 27.4 points, thriving with Cleveland.
“The way he’s playing now, it’s not surprising to me in the slightest,” Snyder said. “… I think the world of him, obviously.”
Mike Brey, who stepped down as Notre Dame’s coach after posting a 483-280 record in 23 seasons, visited the Hawks’ shootaround practice Tuesday morning. Snyder said the two “go back about 35 years” and added “I don’t know what he’s going to be doing, but it’s good to see him and have him with us.”
Cavaliers: Darius Garland scored 27 points. … Bickerstaff said he was protecting Okoro, who he said was “extremely disappointed because Isaac wants to play all 82 games.” … Evan Mobley had 20 points and 15 rebounds. … PF Dean Wade (non-COVID illness) and G Raul Neto (left hamstring strain) also did not play.
Hawks: Young missed his first four shots from the field and was scoreless before sinking two free throws with 3:37 remaining in the first half. … F Jalen Johnson (groin, hamstring) missed his seventh straight game. … Saddiq Bey had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Cavaliers: Host New York Knicks on Friday.
Hawks: Visit Brooklyn on Friday.
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