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Trae Young hits game-winner as Hawks down Spurs

Rookie makes long three in final seconds for the win

NBA: Summer League-New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It was just one game, just one preseason game. But Trae Young delivered a thrilling finish to the Hawks 130-127 win over the Spurs in the team’s fourth and next-to-last preseason game.

With just a few seconds remaining in a tie game, Young, standing thirty feet from the basket, caught Spurs’ guard Bryn Forbes with his head turned expecting a screen. Young launched the deep shot that caught nothing but net. A miss from Forbes at the other end as the clock expired sealed the win in a game that means nothing in the standings but should be a confidence boost for a young Hawks team.

Trae Young knocks down the game winner in the final seconds of the game.

Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce indicated the game-winning possession was not particularly scripted. He described it as “just an in-between situation” with the shot clock off and the team out of time outs. He continued, “trying to get organized on the fly....and [Young] was probably waiting for that moment to just let one fly.”

Pierce may not have been thrilled with the shot selection that resulted in the game winning score but he would not say as much. Instead, he talked about the confidence the game winner should be for Young, “Great for him, just trying to get the burden of shooting off his back, to hit a game winner, to do it here in Atlanta...It’s good to see.”

The game-winner was not the only tie-breaking shot Young made in the final minute. He also made tough eleven-foot floater with 51 seconds remaining that put the Hawks up 127-125. Derrick White answered with a driving layup with 14 seconds to play which set the stage for thrilling finish.

Young makes a tough runner to give the Hawks a lead with less than a minute to go.

Heading into the game, Pierce stressed the team’s goal was simply “getting better with each game.” He added that the priorities of this game would be “gaining more chemistry, putting some stuff on film and being able to evaluate ourselves going into next week,” referring the start of the regular season.

During the tilt with the Spurs, the chemistry on offense seemed to soar but the game film should provide plenty of learning opportunities on the defensive end. The Hawks did make some defensive adjustments at half time but in all, 127 is far too many to give up, even in a preseason game.

Throughout the evening, the Hawks did just about whatever they wanted to do on offense. Atlanta posted at least 30 points in all four periods. It was Taurean Prince who provided the hot start making back to back three’s on the Hawks’ opening possessions. He followed those shots up with four more baskets by the mid point of the opening quarter to give the Hawks a 19-17 lead half way through.

During that stretch, Prince made seven of eight shots scoring 16 of the Hawks’ first 19 points. Coach Pierce was impressed with the way Prince got the team clicking on offense early, saying “Taurean got us going right in the first quarter, as good as I’ve ever seen him play.”

The Hawks seemed to be intentionally going to Prince on the opening possessions running set plays to free him up for open looks. Prince, who is now shooting 64.0% from the field and 63.6% on threes during his three preseason appearances, appears to be reaping the rewards of a well-documented summer of work and dedication to his game.

While the Hawks were scoring at will in the opening period, they were struggling to get stops on the other end of the floor. The Spurs scored 36 first quarter points boosted by making seven of eight three point in attempts in the period. The Spurs were able to get to ball to middle of the restricted area much too easy and found wide open shooters posted around the perimeter. The Spurs first quarter performance resulted in a 36-32 lead heading into the second period.

In the second period, the Spurs cooled off making just two of eight three point attempts. but still managed to put 28 points on the scoreboard. The Hawks scored thirty in the period relying on sharing the basketball as they assisted on eight of the thirteen field goals they made in the period led by four assists from Young.

During halftime, Pierce addressed the Hawks first half defensive performance. Pierce explained, “We went into halftime, we knew we over-helped on some of the three point shots” an indication the Hawks were giving to much help in the paint leaving them vulnerable to the open shooters spotted up around the perimeter. He added, “That was our message, stay home, be disciplined, rebound and run and get things on the other end.”

As a result of the halftime discussion, the Hawks played with a new energy level coming out of the break. After the Hawks scored on the opening possession of the second half, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich immediately called a timeout.

The timeout didn’t seem to help as the Hawks used a 15-0 run to open to third period building a 77-64 lead just before the mid way point of the third quarter. Eight of those points came from Young who made two three pointers and two free throws during the run.

The Spurs closed the gap to four on a DeMar DeRozan three point play with 4:41 left in the period. But two jump shots from Jeremy Lin helped rebuild the lead as the Hawks finished the third period with a 100-92 lead.

The Hawks maintained that cushion until the middle of the fourth quarter when three consecutive turnovers allowed the Spurs to use an 11-0 run to tie the game at 116-116 with a little more than four minutes to play. The teams traded baskets the rest of the way, including Prince step-back jumper with two minutes to play.

Prince makes a clutch corner three to give the Hawks a lead with two minutes to go.

In the end, the basket trading landed in the Hawks’ favor as Young made the games final shot which resulted in the victory for the Hawks.

Final Tally

Seven Hawks scored in double figures. Prince led the way with 25 while Young delivered 22 points and seven assists. Len was solid with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Kent Bazemore scored 15, while DeAndre’ Bemby scored 14. Alex Poythress scored 14 and Jeremy Lin scored 10.

The Spurs finished with six players in double figures. Rudy Gay scored a game high 28 points while Bryn Forbes scored 22 off the bench.

Mature Performance by Young

While this, again, was just one preseason game, Young showed a lot of maturity in this game. Elite NBA point guards, which is of course what the Hawks hope Young will become, can help their teams both by scoring and distributing the ball. The best of the best are distributors early in the game as they help the team find a rhythm while taking on scoring responsibilities later in the game. Versus the Spurs, Young did just this.

During the first quarter, Young did not score missing his only field goal attempt. Instead, he got the team into the offensive sets that got Prince going early in the game. He finished the first quarter with two assists, a steal and no turnovers.

As the game progressed, he took more of the offensive workload. In the second quarter he tallied five points and four assists. In the second half, he played with more of scorer’s mentality. He finished the second half with 17 points and one assist, making six of eleven field goals including three of four from behind the arc.

It was his scoring early in the second half that helped the Hawks build a 13-point lead. And it was his scoring at the end that delivered the victory.

Solid Performances for Len and Lin

Alex Len delivered a solid performance. In addition to his 16 points and 10 rebounds, he added 5 assists. He made two of four shots from behind the three point line bringing his preseason tally to five makes on nine attempts. In five seasons in Phoenix, Len made just six three point shots on 25 attempts.

Poythress finds the trailing Len for the transition three.

While showing he can perhaps be a reliable shooter, he also gives the Hawks a traditional center that does not slow down and clog up the pace of play. He can get up and down the floor and can make plays in transition.

Young makes the lead pass to Len leading to a highlight reel dunk.

As for Jeremy Lin, the preseason has primarily been about getting himself re-acclimated to live action in NBA games as he works his way back from an injury that limited him to one game last season. Versus the Spurs, Lin seemed to find his rhythm. Though the team struggled when he was on the floor (real plus-minus of -15 compared to Young’s +18), it was a good sight to see Lin moving freely and looking comfortable in the flow of the game.

Looking Ahead

The Hawks play their final pre-season game on Friday in Miami before opening up the regular season with a three game road trip starting in New York against the Knicks next Wednesday.