The Atlanta Hawks lost their 55th game of the season on Friday night to the playoff bound, Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers. The 101-91 loss was the Hawks fifth loss in a row, but there was a significant bright spot in what has easily been the worst season the franchise has seen in over a decade.
The emergence of first-year G-League call-up Damion Lee has not only been a surprise but a ray of hope for a team staring down the barrel of a lottery pick and their first non-playoff season in 10 years.
With six more games to play, there is a chance that Lee will get more opportunities to start -he made his first start at Philips Arena on Friday night- and continue to impress Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff.
“[Lee] continues to play well on both ends of the court,” said Budenholzer after the loss to the 76ers. “He made some shots, gets to the basket. I’m happy with how he’s playing.”
And it shows. On Friday night Lee played a team-high 32 minutes, scoring a team-high 20 points on 8-17 shooting (2-6 from three-point) to go along with four rebounds and two steals. The 17 shot attempts were also tied for a team-high with Taurean Prince (6-17 from field, 0-6 from three).
In nine games with the Hawks this season Lee is averaging 10.4 points and four rebounds in just over 26 minutes a game. He is also shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 76 percent from the free-throw line.
With Orlando coming to town on Sunday and without the services of leading scorer and point guard Dennis Schroder (Left ankle sprain), Lee might continue to keep getting major minutes and that’s a good thing for a team in search of something, anything positive.
“I think the guys kept working,” said Budenholzer after the game. “I’m glad they kept competing there in the end.” The Hawks were putscored 38-19 during the deciding third quarter (Lee scored 10 of the Hawks 19 points during that period) and came back to outscore Philadelphia 32-15 during the fourth quarter.
The Hawks and Magic will tip-off at 6PM on Sunday.