ATLANTA – An MRI on Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young’s sprained ankle revealed a bruise on his right foot Monday afternoon, and will be considered questionable for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
“That’s the head of our snake,” Hawks forward John Collins said Monday afternoon. “That’s the last thing I feel like anybody who’s a Hawks fan wants to see that guy go down with any kind of trinket or whatever. I think he stepped on the officer’s foot or someone’s foot.”
“That’s the last thing I want to see. I hate to see it, and I just hope, I pray it’s okay.”
Young sprained his ankle with 36 seconds left in the third quarter when he inadvertently stepped on referee Sean Wright’s right foot, causing him to briefly return to the locker room before returning with 8:44 to the end of the fourth quarter. .
But Young, who had 32 points during the first three quarters, was clearly hampered by the injury in the fourth as he lacked the same movement and blast that he had earlier in the game.
He was visibly frustrated by the situation after Sunday’s game, although both Collins and center Clint Capela said that when they spoke to him on Monday he was in a better mood.
“Yeah, obviously we’re going to have to adjust,” Capela said, when asked what the Hawks will do if Young stays below 100% for Tuesday’s game. “I don’t know how, I mean, how much percent it’s going to be or what kind of Trae it’s going to be. Even the fact that he’s there with us, it already means a lot, in our minds and in everything.
“While hopefully he can be with us, I don’t know if he will or not, but hopefully he will be.”
Hawks coach Nate McMillan repeatedly referred to Monday as a “get what you need” day for his players, be it massages, treatments or taking shots. For Young, this was obviously going to be a full day of recovery from his injury.
“It feels good,” McMillan said. “He’s disappointed in the loss. Like most guys, they have something going on, be it an injury or some pain. Today is a day to take care of whatever it is they need to prepare for tomorrow.
“So that’s where Trae is at. He’s getting what he needs, which is a little treatment, and whatever else he needs, be it a massage or whatever, to get ready for tomorrow.”
But that didn’t mean McMillan wasn’t focusing on the things his team can improve on as he tries to even the series with a victory in Game 4. Specifically, the veteran coach had two areas that left him frustrated with the way the game played out. Game 3: Poorly thought out quick shots, which led to the Bucks flying in transition for easy baskets too many times, and an inability to keep the Bucks out of the paint.
“I thought we were taking quick shots and with the defense on us at the beginning of the clock throughout the game,” McMillan said. “That was really from all of our guards. We just didn’t show the patience to find the matchup or mismatch they were giving us and take advantage of that. Once again, those plays led to transition points.
“I thought there were times when we didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball in front. We let those guys play in the paint without helping. There were times when they missed shots and again they beat us on the boards, the offensive rebounds. .
“They made plays every time we tried to make a run to stop our runs, and that was the difference in winning that game. They made shots when they needed to. They made stops when they needed to. We didn’t do that, and that was the difference in the game.” .
It’s been a wildly successful playoff streak thus far for the Hawks, who went from 14-20 and firing McMillan’s predecessor Lloyd Pierce mid-season to turning things around to finish fifth in the East. Then they fired a pair of better-seeded opponents, the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
After winning a third straight Game 1 on the road to open this series, things have returned to Earth in the last two games, after being beaten in Game 2 and collapsing down the stretch in the fourth quarter under a barrage of Khris Middleton misses and hits in Game 3.
All of this, however, is a learning experience for the Hawks, something Collins said is happening not just game-by-game, but play-by-play on his first trip to the postseason.
“It really shows how difficult it is to win in the playoffs,” Collins said. “I am amazed at every new game I play, the next clash I play, how difficult the experience is.
“He always lets me know that this is real basketball. It will probably be the toughest basketball that I can play on this stage. It just challenges me to try to be more locked in on every possession because this is really tough basketball right now.”