Dejounte Murray high fives his teammates during his first preseason game with the Atlanta Hawks in Abu Dhabi.
(Atlanta Hawks)

Dejounte Murray shines in Hawks debut at NBA Abu Dhabi Games

It is difficult to envision a better Hawks debut for Dejounte Murray than the one he had in Abu Dhabi Thursday. 

The 26 year old donned a Hawks jersey for the first time and tallied 25 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks while leading the Hawks to a 123-113 win in the first of the two preseason contests with Milwaukee that constitute the NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022.

Fellow point guard Trae Young finished with 22 points and 3 assists while meshing in a nearly seamless manner. The benefit of having two on-ball creators paid some early dividends for the Hawks. With both Trae and Dejounte in the fold, the Hawks don't always have to attack the opposing team's best perimeter defender, a fact that Head Coach Nate McMillan alluded to in his postgame comments.

"We want to try to take advantage of the defense," McMillan said. "(Dejounte and Trae) did a good job of getting the ball in the hands of a defender we could take advantage of. Playing with the ball, playing off the ball – I thought it was a really good flow from our guards tonight. With the number of guys that we had handling the basketball tonight – and to only have eight turnovers – that's a good sign."

McMillan had some concerns on the other side of the ball. While Clint Capela played well in taking on the task of guarding two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo – Capela forced all three of Antetokounmpo's turnovers on a steal and two charges drawn – McMillan wanted more from his perimeter players in terms of rebounding and help defense on Antetokounmpo (19 points, 6-16 FG).

"We weren't tight enough in our gaps and allowed (Giannis) to play in our paint. We have to do a better job of keeping our body in front of the basketball," McMillan said. "Our guards, they know that they have to be better this season helping our bigs rebound the basketball."

De'Andre Hunter had 17 points and 7 rebounds. Aaron Holiday and John Collins each scored 16 while also teaming up for a soaring alley-oop dunk.

Collins also punched home a dunk off an assist from Dejounte.

"I feel like we've been able to put a lot of things together thus far in the preseason," Collins said of playing with Dejounte. "I love (having) another leader out there, another guy who can find guys and rebound. He is going to hoop and he is going to play hard."

The Hawks only shot 7 of 22 on their three-point attempts (31.8 percent), but they made up for it with how well they executed their offense with new faces in new roles. McMillan said that Dejounte has good intuition for finding that balance.

"He has great feel for the game," McMillan said of Dejounte. "He certainly can play with the ball, but he understands getting teammates involved. He was initiating most of the offense tonight, getting the ball to Trae and De'Andre and John, as well as taking his opportunity when he felt that he had the matchup. I think it's going to get better because of his basketball IQ."

The Hawks and Bucks play again and finish their overseas trip Saturday. Expect some fresh faces in that one.

"We will get more young guys playing time in the second game," McMillan said. "Some of our younger guys who didn't play tonight, we will get them in the rotation."