ATLANTA (AP) — Dejounte Murray paid immediate dividends for Atlanta at both ends of the court, scoring 20 points and picking off five steals to lead the Hawks past the pesky Houston Rockets 117-107 in the season opener Wednesday night.
Murray, an All-Star guard acquired from San Antonio in the Hawks’ biggest move of the offseason, also dished out 11 assists to give the Hawks a potent 1-2 punch in the backcourt along with Trae Young.
Young had 23 points and 13 assists, teaming with Murray to give a glimpse of how a pair of star point guards can co-exist.
Murray became the first player since Spud Webb in 1985 to have a double-double in his Atlanta debut. But his biggest impact may have been at the defensive end, where he’s charged with helping the Hawks improve on one of their biggest problems a season ago.
The Rockets were led by Kevin Porter Jr, with 21 points, two days after he signed an $82.5 million, four-year contract extension to help lead Houston’s major rebuilding project.
John Collins, who was the subject of incessant trade speculation during the offseason, led the Hawks with 24 points. De’Andre Hunter, his future in Atlanta solidified by a $95 million, four-year extension, chipped in with 22 points.
The Hawks are hoping to recapture the form that carried them to the Eastern Conference final in 2021.
Atlanta slipped to ninth in the East a season ago and needed to win two play-in games just to qualify for the postseason. The Hawks didn’t last long in the playoffs, going down in five games to top seed Miami.
The Rockets, who had the NBA’s worst record the last two seasons, sent out a youthful lineup that included No. 3 overall pick Jabari Smith Jr. The former Auburn star had 17 points and seven rebounds in his NBA debut.
Of the 13 players who dressed for Houston, only two had more than three seasons of experience.
Rockets: Another first-round pick, Tari Eason, had eight points and seven assists in 15 minutes off the bench. … Daishen Nix (sore back), Jae-Sean Tate (left ankle soreness) and rookie TyTy Washington (left knee sprain) were not available for the start of the regular season.
Hawks: The team’s two rookies — first-rounder AJ Griffin and second-rounder Tyrese Martin — did not play. … The team had 30 assists and just nine turnovers. … G Bogdan Bogdanovic was the only Atlanta player who didn’t dress for the opener. He continues to recover from right knee surgery in June.
Rockets: Return to Houston for their home opener Friday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Hawks: Host the Orlando Magic on Friday night in the second of three straight home games to begin the season.