Dejounte Murray Latest Casualty for Banged-Up Atlanta Hawks
The injury woes continue for the Atlanta Hawks. All-Star guard Dejounte Murray will reportedly miss at least two weeks with a sprained left ankle.
The Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks met on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in a highly anticipated matchup between Eastern Conference foes. The Knicks defeated the Hawks, but they lost backup forward Obi Toppin during the win. Meanwhile, the Hawks lost the game because Murray suffered an ankle injury less than four minutes into the first quarter.
The Hawks knocked the Knicks out of the playoffs two seasons ago, and the two teams developed some bad blood during that brief but feisty series. Fans at Madison Square Garden particularly focused their ire on Hawks All-Star Trae Young during the 2021 NBA Playoffs. A cocky and flashy Young became cast as the latest villain on Broadway while the Hawks eliminated the Knicks.
The Knicks got a bit of revenge this week by beating the short-handed Hawks. The Hawks were also missing starting forwards John Collins and De’Andre Hunter. Collins is also nursing an ankle injury, and Hunter has a sore hip. Despite a sprained ankle, Collins has been the subject of trade rumors involving the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
Murray Shines with New Team
The Hawks acquired Murray from the San Antonio Spurs in an off-season trade that included multiple first-round draft picks. Murray was an All-Star with the Spurs, and he developed a reputation as one of the best two-way players in the league. The Hawks added Murray to boost their defense, especially on the perimeter and as a lockdown defender.
In his first 25 games with the Hawks, Murray averaged 20.8 points, 6.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. He’s shooting 36.6% from 3-point range.
Between Murray and Young, the backcourt duo averages 48 points and 15.7 assists per game. While Young is flamboyant and brash, Murray is a perfect compliment to his backcourt mate with a low-key demeanor.
Last weekend, Young and head coach Nate McMillian had a brief spat, and Young sat out Friday night’s game. The incident was brushed off as a misunderstanding and miscommunication, but there’s tension simmering under the surface between the star and head coach. Without Young in the lineup, Murray led the Hawks to a victory over the Denver Nuggets with 34 points and eight assists.
Prior to his injury against the Knicks, Murray has been on a mini-heater, averaging 28.3 points per game over his last three games.
Earlier in the season, Murray torched the Knicks for 36 points and nine assists during his first visit to Madison Square Garden as a member of the now-hated Hawks.
Hawks Face Easy Schedule in December
The Hawks are 13-12 this season after losing two games in a row. They began the season 4-1, but went 9-11 since their strong start.
The Hawks are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, and are +5000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship over at DraftKings.
The Southeast Division is split between three teams with playoff aspirations, and two losing teams more focused on securing a high draft pick. The Hawks are in first place in the Southeast with a 1.5-game lead over the Miami Heat (12-14) in second place. The third-place Washington Wizards (11-14) trail the Hawks by two games. The Heat are the favorite to win the division at -115 odds, but the Hawks are not far behind at +115 odds.
The Charlotte Hornets (7-18) and Orlando Magic (6-20) are two of the worst teams in the NBA, and both are basement dwellers in the Southeast Division. The Hornets and Magic hope they can win the draft lottery, and then secure the draft rights to French star Victor Wembanyama to turn around their franchise.
The Hawks will play eight games over the next two weeks without Murray. They have two tough road games against the Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies over the next four games. The good news is that six of those next eight games are against the four worst teams in the Eastern Conference, including the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls (twice), Hornets, and Magic (twice).