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Hawks snap losing skid behind Young’s second half explosion

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A tough start for Young, but when he got it going, he got it going.

San Antonio Spurs v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks returned to winning ways as they ended a three-game losing streak, knocking off the San Antonio Spurs 108-100 on Tuesday night.

Trae Young returned from his ankle injury (suffered last week against the Miami Heat) and returned in a big way, scoring 29 points while dishing out 13 assists, while Jabari Parker added 19 points. Both players obviously have a big role to play in the coming months, but we’ll talk about this in a minute.

For the Spurs — who have started the season strong — were led by (the mid-range master) DeMar DeRozan’s 22 points while Bryn Forbes added 17 points to the Spurs’ cause.

Alright, let’s get into this...

Trae Young’s second half awakening

In his first game returning from an ankle injury suffered last week in Miami, Trae Young struggled to score in the first half of this game, shooting 0-of-8 from the field and 0-of-3 from three in 12 minutes.

Young got some good early looks but also tried to force things slightly, not so much to begin the game but as the misses racked up in the first half, it felt like Young just wanted to get on the board.

Young misses this layup in the second quarter:

And on the next possession, he tried to go to the rim again but his shot is blocked by Trey Lyles:

Trey on Trae violence (not really)...

But despite Young’s struggles, he (as he normally is able to do) was able to effect the game in other ways, dishing up eight first half assists and, despite his struggles, the Hawks only trailed the Spurs by one point at halftime — the same number of points (or, point) Young tallied in the first half, coming from the free throw line.

And then came the second half.

Young exploded into life in the second half, scoring 28 points — 16 coming in the fourth quarter — as he put the Hawks on his back and helped spearhead a comeback as the Spurs threatened to run away in the latter stages of the third quarter (more on that soon).

Young shot 10-of-15 from the field and 5-of-7 from three in the second half, and while he didn’t have a ton of opportunities at the rim last night, it was the floater that got Young’s scoring going and things really picked up from there:

Young hit a number of floaters in the third quarter and I think these were key in just getting him going heading towards the fourth quarter.

The Spurs threatened to make a break as a Derrick White three-pointer put the Spurs up by 10 points as the third quarter neared its end. The Hawks brought that down to eight points heading into the fourth quarter, which is always dangerous territory because the Spurs are just one run away from putting this game into blowout territory.

But the Hawks started the fourth quarter exactly how they needed to, and it was behind Young that the Hawks raced back into this game with a 9-0 run to start the quarter to take the 79-78 lead.

Young got the run started with a three-pointer as Rudy Gay switches onto Young:

Young then set up De’Andre Hunter in the corner for another three-pointer, Young’s 11th assist of the night:

And Young then capped off the 9-0 run with another three-pointer of his own, coming off of the Bruno Fernando screen:

And there you go, there’s a 9-0 run (11-0 extending back to the end of the third quarter) just like that and instead of the Spurs making the run to put this game within reach of a blowout, it’s the Hawks who make the run and are very much back in this game.

The Spurs did respond to this and it was still a tight game heading into the last five minutes, but Young helped push the lead to seven points with under four minutes to go with another three-pointer:

Another nice screen from Fernando to make this possible.

After a DeRozan travel, the Hawks took their ‘use it or lose it’ timeout with just over three minutes to go, leading by seven points and the game enters a critical point — the Hawks are a mini-run away from effectively ending this game, and the same with the Spurs to get them back into the game.

Missed threes from Hunter and Gay did nothing for the scoreline, and after Jabari Parker added a free throw to put the Hawks up by eight, Bryn Forbes’ three-pointer cut the lead back to five points with just over two and a half minutes remaining — the game is very much still in the balance.

Once again, Young rose to the occasion in the clutch.

With the Hawks inbounding the ball with 3.1 seconds left on the clock, Hunter gets it in to Young, who has to get something up and he duly hits the three-pointer from the corner with Patty Mills right there to contest:

An offensive foul from LaMarcus Aldridge gave the Hawks the chance to come the other way, leading by eight points, to drain some clock but Young puts the exclamation point on the game as he shifts gears on his way to the rim, finishing with the left-hand:

And, for good measure, Young got to the free throw line to finish his night as chants of ‘M-V-P!’ rung around State Farm Arena as the Hawks — behind a 38-22 fourth quarter — powered through to their third victory of the season.

For the game, he finished with 29 points and a season-high 13 assists in just under 30 minutes, which was his limits restriction coming back from that ankle injury, of which he had no major complaints postgame.

“It felt great,” said Young of his ankle. “I was kind of, obviously, upset with the minutes restriction. But, Chelsea (Lane) and them, they know what they’re doing. I had to make what time I had on the court (count). It felt good. I don’t feel any pain as of right now. I just got out of the ice bucket. So, still continuing to rehab. It’s not 100%, but it’s up there.”

Young finished the fourth quarter with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, 4-of-6 from three and three assists to go along with zero turnovers.

“Trae Young’s pretty good,” Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce opened with in his postgame press conference.

An accurate statement from Pierce, who obviously had more to say about his star.

“I thought he did a great job of really leading our guys down the stretch, Pierce continued. “We talked at halftime and he’s such a competitor and he’s always hard on himself. He’s 0-8 at halftime and he’s got eight assists, and just part of his growth and leadership is understanding how to play 48 minutes and really impact the game in a variety of ways. I thought he did so. He was so hard on himself because he wasn’t scoring. As we see, he can score at any point. But I thought leadership, down the stretch, is really the key part of the game.

“It’s really encouraging to see because we had a lot of guys step up tonight, especially in that first half. But I’m just proud of all of our guys. I’m proud of Trae’s maturity to handle his first half, second half performance, but great team win.”

28 second half points to one first half point... The key to Young’s second half turnaround? Taking things at a slower speed.

“I just slowed down,” said Young postgame. “For me, obviously, getting back and trying to get back into a rhythm early in the game was kind of tough. Just trying to find my rhythm, find my shot, and it just wasn’t going down in the first half. Luckily, I’m blessed with great teammates and great coaches who keep instilling confidence in me and just telling me to keep going.”

Young definitely found his rhythm in the third quarter with his floater, and the erratic drives toward the rim in the second half didn’t really exist.

Even when Young isn’t finishing at the rim, he’s a threat from everywhere on the court, making him an extremely difficult cover.

“It’s very difficult (to contain Trae Young),” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “It doesn’t matter what day it is. He’s tough every night. If he’s playing, he’s tough to guard. He did a great job. He was cold the first half, and probably getting some rust off a little bit, I would imagine, but the second half he was great. He played confidently, whether he was driving it for little runners, or shooting the three. He did a great job.”

The Spurs were left to lament a job half done guarding Young, who surely thought it may be their lucky night after that 0-of-8 start from Young.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” said Spurs star DeMar DeRozan of Young. “A guy like that, that shoots the amount of times he shoots, he is not going to let up just because he missed a couple of shots in the first half. We didn’t get him under control, he led his team to victory, and we have to look at what we didn’t do and be better at it.”

“He’s a great player for sure,” said Dejounte Murray of Young. “He can really shoot it, so you have to keep your eyes open at all times. He just got away on the pick-and-roll, got open looks, and when a shooter like that gets open shots it’s tough to defend.”

The Spurs were also left to lament their inability to cash in on their free throws, shooting 11-of-16 on the night but, in general, it wasn’t pretty on the offensive end, and that was the case for both teams through three quarters but especially in the first half where the Hawks shot 3-of-13 from behind the arc.

With the second half came a change in fortune from behind the arc as the Hawks shot 8-of-17 in the second half, however, six of those came in the fourth quarter. This was especially important to this game because the Hawks held an advantage in points scored in the paint all game long (winning that battle 50-34) but didn’t have the three-pointer to compliment that success inside.

Is it a coincidence that, as soon as the three-ball started falling with consistency, that the Hawks were able to stretch away in the fourth quarter and enjoy the quarter they did? Perhaps not...

“It was definitely a point of emphasis,” said Cam Reddish. “Getting to the basket and opening up our outside game. Especially with a lot of shooters like myself, Trae, De’Andre, everyone, really. It definitely was a point of emphasis going into the game.”

Out of those 50 paint points, only eight came from Young, which speaks to the success to the Hawks, as a team, to win out that battle (and we’ll talk about the man who was largely responsible for winning that battle in a minute).

But for the man who won the battle for the Hawks last night, Trae Young, he was fantastic and is worth the price of admission alone, even if he is run without his running mate John Collins for a while...

Just to wrap up on Young, I’ll just leave this clip here...

Jabari Parker’s new role, rotation tidbits in the Collins aftermath

Obviously, proceedings heading into this game were dominated by the news that John Collins would miss the next 25 games after being suspended for violating the NBA’s Anti-Drug policy.

In his place, Lloyd Pierce had to insert someone to take his place in the starting and that someone was Jabari Parker.

Pierce could’ve gone in a few different directions with this — well, more so in the direction of Vince Carter (which wouldn’t have been that surprising, given how Pierce has handled a situation similar to this in the absence of Kevin Heurter, insisting that DeAndre’ Bembry came off of the bench still to give the Hawks the energy they needed, even though Bembry is better than Cam Reddish at this stage) — but Pierce ultimately went with Jabari Parker, as he should have

Parker, in his first start this season, responded with a strong game — 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds.

All of Parker’s scoring work came in the paint — 19 of the Hawks’ 50 paint points came courtesy of Parker:

There’s a lot of red behind the arc — Parker was 0-of-3 from three — but that’s not the focus today.

Parker can obviously go get his own shot, and he made some tough shots last night, this play wasn’t one of the more difficult shots but still a contested shot that Parker made near the rim last night:

Parker has played with a number of point guards in his career so far, but none have had the passing ability of Young, and Parker is going to benefit not only from that but also the attention that Young demands from other teams.

On this possession, the Spurs get a little confused defensively (between Dejounte Murray and Trey Lyles), it leaves Parker in space and Young zips a pass to Parker who finishes with the dunk:

In the pick-and-roll, Parker slips the pick just before contact is made with the screen, Young draws the second defender and slips the pass to Parker who finishes with the dunk:

To start the third quarter, Parker hands-off to Young, rolls to the rim and is found by Young for the dunk after Young draws the second defender:

Pierce didn’t really speak about Parker postgame but will surely be pleased with what he was able to do in the starting lineup.

Parker isn’t going to shoot 60-plus percent from the field every game but he has a significant opportunity now in the absence of Collins. Offensively, Parker you could argue is a better inside scorer compared to Collins but that comes with a trade-off in that Parker won’t shoot as well from three as Collins, nor defend as well/block shots like Collins.

In his first start, Parker played 31 minutes and he may be a 30 (maybe more in some situations) minutes-per-game guy now in the absence of Collins as Pierce tries to replace those minutes Collins has vacated.

Vince Carter is likely to see more minutes now (more at the four now, which is better than Vince being at the three) and he played 16 minutes last night. His average for the season heading into this game was 13.

De’Andre Hunter may possibly see more minutes now in the absence of Collins. Hunter played a team-high 36 minutes last night and a high minutes total may continue to be the theme for Hunter, and he’ll be helped in that regard by Huerter’s progression as his minutes limit increases (Huerter can play small forward if needed in lineups with Hunter at the four).

Amongst the centers, Alex Len played just 14 minutes, Bruno Fernando played just under 15 minutes and Damian Jones played 18 minutes before fouling out.

Postgame, Pierce was asked about juggling his center’s minutes but ended up expanding on the forwards in general.

“I’ve got three guys that are all competing for really two spots and I’m playing all three but they’ll tell me who to play in the second half,” said Pierce. “I thought Damian was great tonight, I thought his effort and his energy…he stole the minutes tonight. That’s why he was down there until he basically fouled out and we went with Bruno.

“And we’ll keep doing that, I’m going to consistently try and start the guys we start and then we make the adjustments as the game goes on. I’ve said it all along, we’ll play who we think we need to play to finish games. We did that tonight. We were able to get some minutes from Vince in the fourth quarter, but go back with Jabari. D-Hunter was great but we got to get him some time and we came back with him after taking him out. The guys that bought in — it’s team basketball — and the bigs are doing the exact same thing and that’s what they’re sharing the load like that.”

You can kind of get an insight of how Pierce is thinking about his general forward rotation from that quote and how Collins’ minutes may be spread amongst all of those guys.

Pierce mentioned, and praised, Damian Jones, who I thought was very solid last night.

Jones’ boxscore won’t wow anyone — four points, five rebounds — but he just played well and had good moments defensively in contesting shots (coming up with a defensive field goal percentage of 33% as opponents shot 3-of-9 when guarded by Jones) as well as being credited for three screen assists, which was a team-high.

In his answer about the centers, Pierce eluded to the fact that he probably won’t change his starting lineup a ton (“...I’m going to consistently try and start the guys we start and then we make the adjustments as the game goes on...” and I think this refers more to his center spot anyways) and Alex Len obviously figures to be part of that. I’d personally like to see more of Damian Jones — especially now in the absence of Collins — but I wouldn’t count on Pierce to start him, especially given that quote about starting lineups.

It’s going to an interesting task for Pierce dealing with his front-court rotation now in the absence of Collins but Jabari Parker would’ve certainly made life a little easier last night.

Trae Young praised the Hawks as a whole for how other players stepped up in the absence of Collins, including Parker.

“Everybody stepped up in a big way (without Collins),” said Trae Young. “Obviously, like I said, we’re going to miss John. He’s a big part of our team. But, the way Jabari stepped up, the way Vince hit some big shots ... De’Andre, Cam, the rookies, Bruno coming in there and battling with LaMarcus. It’s not easy, but they did a great job. We’ve got to continue taking it game-by-game, but they did a great job.”

Rookie bounce-backs

The Hawks’ rookie trio did not enjoy a good game against the Miami Heat on Thursday but did enjoy much better games all-around as they all bounced back in their own way.

De’Andre Hunter enjoyed a strong game — 16 points on 6-of-13 from the field to go with eight rebounds.

Not a ton to say for Hunter but one thing especially worth noting was that he hit a great turnaround shot in the fourth quarter — an important shot to put the Hawks up by six points:

You love to see the confidence from Hunter to take that shot, recognizing that he may have the advantage in that situation where the smaller Murray is guarding him.

There was a learning point for Hunter — he did a good job driving toward the rim and into the space but would’ve been better off, perhaps, passing to Jones near the rim but ends up being thwarted by Aldridge not once but twice in succession:

Cam Reddish was 2-of-11 against the Heat on Thursday but responded with a career-high so far as he scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 3-of-3 from behind the arc.

Reddish may not be that good of a three-point shooter but he’s also not as bad as the 1-of-18 start to his three-point shooting, just the usual peaks-and-valleys experience you get with rookies. It was encouraging to see Reddish knock down multiple outside shots in the game.

And, of course, Reddish had some good defensive moments but got caught out on some team defense, such as this play where, off of a Spurs pick-and-roll, Jones cuts off Dejounte Murray but Reddish loses Aldridge, who hits a shot he’d hit in his sleep and Lloyd Pierce called for early timeout after the play:

Fernando didn’t play as well as Hunter or Reddish but had a decent stint in the fourth quarter as Pierce called his number, and he had some decent screens for Young. He played 14 minutes but that would’ve been less had Jones not fouled out. Not much to say here but better than the three minutes he played against Miami.

Pierce believes the four days between games helped the rookies bounce-back.

“We had four days where we weren’t playing and after five games, their first five games, they get to assess the speed of the game, they get to assess some areas — because we watch it on film — and then we were in the gym Friday and Saturday just getting our conditioning going, getting the speed of the game in our workouts going. That’s a lot of time in the NBA when you have four days to just work. I thought their response, I thought their first half play — especially for both Cam and ‘Dre — was a result of the work they’ve put in the last couple of days.

“Cam was great tonight, he was great. He gets his shot going, he gets downhill and tries to attack the rim, and that’s what we’re hoping to see. I don’t care about makes and misses,I care about how they play. The makes and misses will come as a result of the work they’re putting in.”

(Worth noting that answer was to a question asked in reference to Reddish and Hunter, Fernando wasn’t mentioned for that reason).


The Hawks (3-3) are back in action tonight against the struggling Chicago Bulls at State Farm Arena.

With the Bulls 2-6 on the season, losers of their last two games and — just like the Hawks — are on the second night of a back-to-back (having played the Lakers on Tuesday), there’s an opportunity for the Hawks to win successive games and get above the .500 mark.

Time will tell.

Until next time...