After missing the last game with right shoulder soreness, Trae Young is expected to return to the lineup when the Atlanta Hawks host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.
The Hawks have won two straight, including a 117-109 defeat of Denver on Friday when they played without Young and starters John Collins and De’Andre Hunter. The Thunder have also won two in a row after Saturday’s 135-128 victory at Minnesota.
Atlanta swept the two-game series last season and has won three straight against the Thunder. The Hawks have a three-game winning streak against Oklahoma City in games played in Atlanta.
Collins will miss two weeks after injuring his left ankle while landing awkwardly on a failed lob attempt. Hunter is out a week with a right hip flexor strain. Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic played for the first time after offseason knee surgery, received a standing ovation and scored five points in 22 minutes against the Nuggets.
“I think we just showed how deep we are,” said Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray, who scored 34 points. “Young talent and bunch of hard-working guys. We had three key guys out, three starters, and it’s hard to win games in this league like that.”
Rookie A.J. Griffin started for Young and scored a career-high 24 points. Jalen Johnson replaced Collins in the lineup and had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“A lot of our guys were ready to step up and play,” Murray said. “The main thing I try to preach to those guys is to try to be confident each and every day. It’s just basketball. You’re going to turn the ball over. You’re going to make mistakes. Overall, I think we were having a lot of fun as well.”
Atlanta is hopeful that Young can return after being a late scratch on Friday. He averages 27.8 points and 9.6 assists.
An Oklahoma native, Young enjoys playing against the Thunder. He scored 41 and 30 points against Oklahoma City last season and is averaging 24.3 points in seven career games against the Thunder.
The Thunder got their leading scorer back on Saturday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned after sitting out a game with a bruised hip and scored 33 points on 10-for-17 shooting.
“Felt good playing basketball again,” said Gilgeous-Alexander, who averages 31.1 points and has scored 30-plus points in six consecutive games.
The Thunder had seven players finish in double figures, including Josh Giddey with 21 points. He also had 12 rebounds and seven assists.
“When we’ve got multiple contributors like we did, it’s going to put us in a position to win a lot of games,” Giddey said. “When we’re moving the ball in transition and playing above the rim, we’re looking good.”
The Thunder have made offensive rebounding a focal point. OKC has had at least 10 offensive rebounds in 18 of its 23 games. They had 13 on Saturday, including five by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl to match his career high.
Oklahoma City’s Mike Muscala was active for the first time since Nov. 21 but did not play. The veteran — who spent five seasons with Atlanta — had been out with a broken finger.
The teams will complete the season series on Jan. 25 in Oklahoma City.
–Field Level Media