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On Sunday, rookie Onyeka Okongwu finished the regular season with his best performance of the year to help lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 124-95 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Okongwu, who earned the start in place of Clint Capela, produced a career-high 21 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks for his second double-double of the season. He finished by converting 10-of-13 shots from the field.
“I thought he was solid tonight,” Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan said. “(Kelly) Olynyk is a tough cover; he did a good job of staying in front of him, rebounding the basketball (and) finishing in the paint. He was a really good two-way player for us. It was good to be able to get him meaningful minutes this last game before going into the playoffs.”
The performance concluded a bit of a strange season for Okongwu.
Of course, he missed the first 10 games of the season due to a foot injury and played sparingly prior to the All-Star break. He saw a larger role with the Hawks after the All-Star break, averaging 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 34 games played.
His seven games in double figures came after the All-Star break.
“It has gone by so fast,” Okongwu said. “I can’t believe our season is over. I feel like I just played my first game against Utah. Overall, just being able to be more aggressive, confident and get used to playing with my teammates coming into this year with a new coach, new teammates. No one really knew how I played, so just getting acclimated to everything was big for me.”
With seeding locked up for the Hawks, the team opted to give other players playing time in an effort to limit the minutes for Trae Young, John Collins and others. Okongwu responded in his expanded role and offered a glimpse of his potential.
Okongwu may not see many minutes during the playoffs, but the performance on Sunday will certainly give him a nice confidence boost should his number be called.