MILWAUKEE – Bring young people released from Milwaukee dollars keep Jrue Holidays, one of the best defensemen in the NBA, and found himself with acres of space between him and the Bucks forward Bobby portis.
And then the superstar keeps for the Atlanta hawks, with more time than he knew what to do with it, decided to do a little shimmy before letting a 3 point fly, like so many other shots from Young in the Hawks 116-113 victory in Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, which slowly settled into the back of the net.
“I mean, I had a lot of time,” said Young with a smile later, who finished with 48 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists in 41 minutes. “I had a lot of time.
“I was a little tired, so I had a small second to take a deep breath and bring him down.”
The fact that Atlanta has come this far surprised almost everyone. That they became just the fourth team in NBA history to win three Road 1 games in the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information research – joining a group that includes the 1999 New York Knicks, 1989 Chicago Bulls and 1981 Houston rockets – is really beautiful.
And the Hawks did it thanks to the confidence instilled in them by their star – a player who is never afraid to play in style, no matter the situation.
If there was any doubt about it, her shimmy would have to put her thoughts to rest.
“I was thinking the same thing as you, ‘Did he really just do that?'” The Hawks guard Kevin huerter mentionned.
The same could be said for the Hawks, after they came back from behind again – this time by seven points at 4:18 remaining when Holiday, who finished with 33 points and 10 assists in 42 minutes, buried a 3-runner to give Milwaukee a 105-98 lead.
It was precisely the kind of moment that a veteran team, playing at home and having gone back and forth with their opponent, typically used to put the game aside.
Instead, the Hawks came back with a bang, starting a 17-8 run from there to close the game and secure the win – a run that was fueled, like much of the night, almost exclusively by Young, who scored or assisted on 13 of those 17 points, including four free throws in the final 20 seconds to help keep the Hawks ahead.
And after Milwaukee missed a pair of potentially tied 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds – a par Pat connaughton, which was a particularly ugly ball of air, and another by Khris Middleton, who finished Game 0-for-9 beyond the 3-point arc – the Hawks once again found themselves winning Game 1 on the road in the Eastern Finals.
“Trae is a bold guy, to be frank with you,” attacking Hawks John collins mentionned. “He lives for those times.
“I don’t know what other people need to see of him in the playoffs to let them know he’s an important player. He loves bright lights.
“I forgot the shimmy, but it’s just Trae. It’s her booty. If that helps her shoot, then keep shimmy, boy.”
That’s pretty much the same attitude the Hawks have taken throughout these playoffs. When asked why they’ve managed to surprise people in those playoffs – and especially with their road play, where Atlanta is now 6-2 in the playoffs – there was, essentially, a shrug in ‘collective shoulders, followed by the same answer: why not?
“I think we can go as far as we want,” Young said. “I don’t think there is a cap, unless you put the [NBA] Finals on this.
“I believe in this team, and we all believe in each other.”
At this point, it would be crazier for them not to believe in themselves after what the Hawks have been able to accomplish so far. They did it with De’André Hunter, their best perimeter defender, being barely available before end-of-season knee surgery, and with Bogdan Bogdanovic – their second-best perimeter scorer after Young – playing well under 100% for the final games of the series against the Philadelphia 76ers, and in Game 1 against the Bucks, due to pain in his right knee.
Despite this, the Hawks continue to find ways to win. They got a stellar game from Collins, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds. They got 19 rebounds from Clint Chapel, including a massive offensive rebound and pullback with 29 seconds left that definitely regained the lead for Atlanta.
And, of course, the Hawks got an endless string of plays from Young. The Bucks went out of their way to let Young get into the midrange and take some floats in the first half. It was a sensible strategy, Young himself said, after struggling to make those same shots during a regular season meeting between the two teams.
That night, however, Young couldn’t fail to start the game, scoring 25 points in the first half alone. And since he was able to get on his way, it made the Bucks lean towards him, moving away from the center. Brook lopez, who only played 20 minutes, in favor of smaller formations to try to trade for Young and the Hawks instead.
Only that didn’t work either – in part because, after limiting Young to two free throws in the first three and a half quarters, Young got 10 in the closing minutes of the fourth.
“It is not easy [to win], Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said, after finishing with 34 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. “It’s never easy.
“At the end of the day, we have to come and do our job. We have to be better.”
The Hawks have now forced the same reaction from three back-to-back opponents in these playoffs. As a result, they now have a lead in these Eastern Conference finals.