At the end of the Game 2 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, the newest victim of assault by Knicks fans, walked off the court facing the stands.
He told the crowd that the Hawks: “They’ll see me at ‘A’ (Atlanta).”
On Friday night, Young and the rest of the Hawks welcomed New York to Atlanta with a 105-94 Game 3 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round series in front of 15,743 fans. at State Farm Arena.
The Knicks were more aggressive in defending Young on Friday, bombarding him more as they tried to slow down his scoring efforts. He still led the Hawks with 21 points, but he also had a game-high 14 assists, along with just two turnovers.
Young was at his best in the first half when he had 10 assists and zero turnovers in one half for the first time in his career. Hawks coach Nate McMillan said Young needed to build on what the Knicks gave him and he did.
“When they close in the paint like the New York defense does, the perimeter is open,” McMillan said. “He has to find those guys and get the ball to the shooters. If they stay on the perimeter, then he has the ability to attack the big boys in the paint.
“It’s doing readings and making sure he takes care of the ball. He only had two turnovers tonight. That’s a really good game for a point guard: 21, 14 and 2. Those are big numbers that we want to see and hope to see. good enough to increase those numbers. “
After the Knicks tied the series on Wednesday, Young was undaunted. Coming off the court at Madison Square Garden, he seemed almost happy to be able to lead his Hawks to the home playoff battle with nearly full arena.
“The energy, the buzz in the arena was great,” Young said. “Just having the fans back definitely helped. Their energy, we really fed off of it throughout the game … This is my first experience at home in the playoffs. I’m looking forward to many more of these. It is Very funny. There is a lot of noise in the sand. “
Young averaged 31 points per game in the first two games of the series. Even though his touchdown sank on Friday, he was able to get his teammates involved. In Game 1, Young scored or assisted with 56 points. In Game 2, that number dropped to 46. On Friday, it went back up to 54.
“I have to find ways to score, whether it’s going down and scoring or finding the open guy,” Young said. “Tonight I needed to find the open man because they were being so aggressive. It really is just getting the readings right.”
In part because of Young’s playmaking skills, the Hawks were able to shoot 51.9 percent from the field and were 16-of-27 from deep. That hot shot helped the Hawks overcome a huge free throw disparity. The Knicks were 27 of 30 from the line, while Atlanta was just 5 of 8. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the -22 margin was the third-worst free throw differential in a playoff victory in NBA history. .
Young led seven Hawks in double figures, including the rest of the starting lineup: Bogdan Bogdanovic (15), John Collins (14), Clint Capela (13) and De’Andre Hunter (11). McMillan said Young’s growing trust with those players is what has helped him grow throughout the season and in this series.
“He’s showing some growth in his game and driving and understanding what he needs to do on the court,” McMillan said. “He keeps all those guys involved while still being aggressive. And he’s doing good reading. And we’ve talked a few times, he has to cut down on his turnovers. He’s too good a passer to have five, six turnovers in one game. Two is fine. But five, six is a great number for a guy who has as much fun as he is. “
Bogdanovic, who was brought in as a free agent this summer to help provide even more shooting and closing games for Atlanta, said Young makes the game simple for his teammates. Bogdanovic also knows that the best is yet to come for the third-year point guard.
“Like Nate said, it’s like having a Ferrari,” Bogdanovic said. “And he is learning to drive the car.”