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Hawks meet Grizzlies chasing more success without Trae Young

Mar 6, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Saddiq Bey (41) drives to the basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Two teams battling the injury report will face off Friday when the Memphis Grizzlies host the Atlanta Hawks.

The matchup also includes a pair of squads with plenty of confidence following two-game winning streaks for each.

The Hawks have won four of their past six games without star point guard Trae Young (torn ligament in finger), the team’s leader with 26.4 points and 10.8 assists per game.

Atlanta has also been without center Onyeka Okongwu, who averages 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He hasn’t played since Feb. 12 with a sprained left big toe.

Nonetheless, the Hawks find themselves entering the weekend with a chance to win three in a row after wins over the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers on consecutive days this week.

Atlanta took down Cleveland 112-101 at home Wednesday. After squandering a 21-point lead, the Hawks held Cleveland to 12 fourth-quarter points to pull away for the victory.

“We made it hard for (Cleveland) defensively, except for that stretch in the third quarter,” Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said of the Cavs’ 40-point period. “It was a good win for a lot of reasons.”

Helping to fill Young’s scoring absence was Saddiq Bey and Bogdan Bogdanovic, each of whom poured in 23 points.

“Both of them kind of had a feel for what the team needed,” Snyder said. “Saddiq didn’t hesitate from 3, and then he was able to attack the rim, as well. Bogdan was determined to make plays. I thought he passed the ball well too, when he drew a crowd.”

The already injury-riddled Hawks saw starting forward Jalen Johnson roll his ankle and exit the game in the third quarter. Johnson has enjoyed a breakout season with 15.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He is questionable for Friday.

In what has been a wash of a season, Memphis has strung together road wins at Brooklyn and Philadelphia ahead of its visit from Atlanta.

With key contributors Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart all inactive due to injury, the Grizzlies relied on Jaren Jackson Jr. in Wednesday’s win. The sixth-year player delivered 30 points and 11 rebounds.

“(Jaren) was playing in some crowds early in the game,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “I thought J.J. did a better job in the second half screening and rolling. Overall, I was really impressed with the force he was playing with.”

Memphis will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2020, but the Grizzlies still have a chance to see their young players develop through the final stretch of the regular season.

One of those young pieces is second-year player Jake LaRavia. After playing sparingly as a rookie last year, he has received an opportunity for increased playing time with the depleted roster.

In the Grizzlies’ past two wins, LaRavia has averaged 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds off the bench.

A Hawks win would even the season series after Memphis won at Atlanta 125-119 on Dec. 23.

–Field Level Media

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