ATLANTA (AP) — Kevin Huerter proved the Atlanta Hawks have more than one rookie capable of taking over a game with his shooting.
Perhaps most encouraging to the rebuilding Hawks’ future was how Trae Young responded to his cold shooting — and Huerter’s hot touch.
Huerter scored 17 of his 27 points in the second quarter, taking the scoring load from Young, and the Hawks beat the New Orleans Pelicans 128-116 on Sunday.
Young had five of his 10 assists in the fourth quarter as the Hawks protected their lead.
Young, who had the first triple-double by a rookie in Hawks history in Saturday’s loss to Brooklyn, missed his first nine shots from the field before finally scoring on a follow shot early in the fourth period. Young had 10 points while shooting only 2 of 14.
“I play in the toughest league for basketball. Not every night can be my night,” Young said.
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said it’s crucial for Young to understand when he has to focus on setting up points for others when his shot isn’t falling.
“He came in the fourth quarter and played 12 straight minutes and shifted to just a playmaker,” Pierce said. “I think it’s a sign of maturity. I think he’s going to have those games from time to time and understand he can still impact a game.”
Huerter has been overshadowed by Young in Atlanta’s rookie class, though both are starters. Huerter, a streaky 3-point shooter, finished two points shy of matching his career-high 29 points.
“My teammates started finding me,” Huerter said. “They started running plays for me almost every possession down the court.”
John Collins had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta, which snapped a three-game losing streak. Collins blocked four shots.
Frank Jackson and Julius Randle each scored 23 points for the Pelicans, who have lost three straight while falling further out of the Western Conference playoff race. Elfrid Payton had 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
New Orleans led by 12 points in the second period and 66-65 at halftime before trailing most of the second half.
Following the game, Randle kicked a trash can in the hallway outside the team’s locker room, a sign of the frustrations for the Pelicans (30-39).
New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said his team played hard.
“We’re just going to keep playing ... play unselfishly and we’ll take the results,” Gentry said.
Huerter’s hot streak, all in the final six minutes of the half, started immediately after guard Dairis Bertans made his debut for New Orleans. Huerter sank a 3-pointer over Bertans, followed by a three-point play when fouled by Bertans, to spark the scoring outburst.
Huerter scored 17 of Atlanta’s final 22 points of the half after having only two points in the first period.
Pelicans: C Jahlil Okafor, who was listed as questionable with a right ankle sprain, had four points in about eight minutes. ...Gentry said G Jrue Holiday (lower abdomen strain) and G E’Twaun Moore (left quadriceps contusion) will miss “another eight or nine days.”
Hawks: Pierce said C Miles Plumlee (left knee pain), who has not played since Dec. 5, has “a target date potentially for this week” to make his return. ... C Dewayne Dedmon (right knee contusion) had eight points while limited to 20 minutes off the bench.
WELCOME TO THE NBA
Bertrans, signed out of the EuroLeague by New Orleans on March 2, had one assist in his debut. Gentry said he wanted to “try to get him acclimated to the speed of the game and playing with some of his teammates.” Bertrans is the older brother of Spurs forward Davis Bertrans.
Anthony Davis had 15 points and eight rebounds in about 21 minutes after missing Friday night’s loss to Toronto with back spasms. Asked what he can take out of the Pelicans’ disappointing season, Davis said “That’s basketball, man..... You got to go out there, try hard and have fun. You can’t let anyone steal your joy.”
Pelicans: Host Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
Hawks: Host Memphis on Wednesday night.