By Donnell Suggs | The Atlanta Voice
Walking towards the locker room at halftime, all 12 Hawks players had a towel in their hands or over their head. Guards Dennis Schroder and Marco Belinelli were in double-figures (12 and 10 points, respectively) and the youth of the Atlanta bench played right into head coach Mike Budenholzer’s hands.
While the Hawks may not have a star player on their roster, they do have skilled, athletic, rebounding players. The Hawks won their season opener 117-111 and one of the keys was their deep bench and a steady rotation of bodies thrown at the Mavericks on offense and defense.
Nine Hawks players scored at least two points during the first half, including 27-year old rookie Josh Magette who scored his first NBA points by sinking a three-pointer with 1:47 remaining in the second quarter.
Maggette is a part of a two-way deal with the team, but his 45-day clock doesn’t start until G League training camp begins next week. Every basket the former University of Alabama at Huntsville point guard scores is a bonus for the franchise and first-year General Manager Travis Schlenk.
By late third quarter, Mike Muscala would score on consecutive fast breaks to give himself four points and the Hawks had 12 players with at least two points. The advantage of a young team is stamina.
The Hawks lost their double-digit lead midway through the third quarter, but they were out there defending the Mavericks to get the score tied at 82 at the end of the period. Only a Barea three-pointer kept Atlanta from leading after three.
Ahead 94-91 with eight minutes remaining in the game, Budenholzer’s bench dominated Dallas’ bench 53-41. In a league full of stars and max-deal players, the Hawks have an actual 12-man rotation that wore down the Mavericks and won this road game. The Hawks first five games of the season are away from the newly renovated Philips Arena so every win counts before heading back home.
There’s no designated go-to guy on this team. No Paul Millsap or Joe Johnson to take the final shot when necessary, but Schroder and Belinelli were the players stepping up during the fourth quarter. Belinelli had 20 points in the game. Schroder scored 28 points.
Both scored key baskets during the final five minutes of the game. Collins finished with 14 points in his NBA debut. Taurean Prince grabbed 10 rebounds to match 10 points of his own. Newcomer Dewayne Dedmon added nine points to go with seven rebounds. A good night by all.
This one game is not enough to predict how the entire season will be, but great team effort on getting this win to begin the NBA season.