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Hawks deliver clutch plays in overtime victory over Timberwolves

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Another game against the Wolves, another overtime game...

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks picked up a big overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at State Farm Arena on Wednesday night, 131-123.

The Hawks were led by Trae Young’s 36 points and 10 assists while John Collins added 34 points and eight rebounds as the duo combined for 70 points. The scoring effort from both Young and Collins hit a number of milestones.

Young’s effort in particular reached a number of milestones.

That’s good company.

More good company.

You get the idea.

Young also tied Dominique Wilkins for five 30-point games from a Hawks rookie.

“For me, anytime you’re mentioned with a legend, someone like Dominique or any legend, it’s a humbling honor,” said Young of the feat. “So, for me, being mentioned with him is an honor.”

More on Young and Collins later — their games just one part of a large parcel when it came to this game in Atlanta last night. They were involved in what ended up being a very wild, entertaining game that went down to the wire.

The Hawks found themselves trailing by 10 points (102-92) with just under 10 minutes remaining in the quarter and managed to erase that deficit with a 10-0 run to tie it up at 102 apiece, this lob from Young to Collins, finishing with the reverse, proving to be a game-highlight during that run:

Up until this run, it was beginning to look like that the Hawks just weren’t able to get enough stops to make a comeback but that 10-0 run put to that to bed and the Hawks were firmly back in this game.

Both teams missed opportunities down the stretch but both teams finally began to make plays with a minute to go, the Wolves striking first through Karl-Anthony Towns, who collects this offensive rebound and finishes with the emphatic dunk, plus the foul to break the tie:

Towns ended up missing the free throw, which — as we know now — proved to be very costly.

The Hawks call for a timeout, and coming out of the timeout Collins sets a pick for Young, who gets Josh Okogie at his hip, drives inside, draws the secondary defender in Towns before wrapping a pass underneath the rim to Collins for the dunk to tie the game again:

The Wolves immediately respond through Derrick Rose, who spins and hooks in the paint with Collins defending him after a screen forced the switch and the Wolves regain the lead:

The Hawks deliver an instant response themselves to tie the game again as Young drives by Okogie again before tossing in a floater before Town could contest with 20 seconds remaining:

Minnesota calls for time but have the opportunity to take the last shot and win the game single handedly.

The Wolves try to create separation with Rose handling and Towns coming to set the screen but DeAndre’ Bembry does a fantastic job fighting through the screen and manages to stay in front of Rose and contest his shot that misses:

“Derrick is one of the best point guards that has ever lived, so I am OK with him taking that shot,” said Karl-Anthony Towns of the shot. “But obviously I wanted the ball so I could shoot it, but it was a good shot, so I’ll live with that.”

Fantastic defense from Bembry on that possession but it wasn’t a surprise to his teammates.

“...He’s one of those guards that if he’s not all over the guy (he’s guarding), he’s coming to crash the boards,” said John Collins of Bembry. “And you saw what he can do tonight, so that’s no surprise to me.”

The Hawks rebound with 0.5 left, call timeout, advance the ball and Young actually manages to hit a shot but after the buzzer had sounded.

Overtime.

DeAndre’ Bembry played a big role in ensuring the game would go to overtime with that defensive stop and his role would only increase as the extra period arrived.

In fact, he took center stage.

To start, he receives the ball in the corner, attempts to drive past Andrew Wiggins, fails to get by Wiggins but is able to spin inside and hooks home with the left hand:

For his second basket in overtime, Bembry finds better fortune driving by Wiggins and while he doesn’t shed him entirely, he does enough to get to the rim before displaying great hang-time and, again, finishes with his left hand:

With Vince Carter having hit a three-pointer to begin overtime, followed by these two Bembry baskets, this capped off a 7-0 run for the Hawks to begin overtime and leading to a Minnesota timeout.

The Wolves responded with five straight points to cut the lead to two points but Bembry, again, rose to the occasion and scored his sixth point in the overtime period in a late clock situation as he catches the ball on the wing, drives inside, evades two defenders and somehow squeezes his layup home off of the weak-side of the glass:

“(My) First thought was to dunk it,” said Bembry of the play. “Just try to be aggressive at the rim. Seeing two people (at the rim), KAT is obviously one of them, a seven-footer. Just try to show the ball and use the rim as a defender for him. It was a tough layup, happy it went in for us.”

Both teams missed opportunities from this point on, the key miss for the Wolves coming from Tyus Jones, whose miss forced the Wolves to begin the fouling game as they trailed by four points with 36 seconds remaining:

The Wolves sent the Hawks to the line but were unable to add any more points themselves and the Hawks, for the second time this season, prevailed over the Wolves in overtime — overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and a 40-point first quarter for the Wolves.

Postgame, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was full of praise for his side as well as DeAndre’ Bembry, who scored 16 points (six of them coming in overtime) and grabbed 14 rebounds on the game.

“What an effort,” opened Lloyd Pierce. “I thought our guys had a great second half. For some reason, the game was weird to start and I thought our guys found a way to compete and find a way to just take over. A lot of growth by a lot of guys—DeAndre was unbelievable tonight in the fourth quarter and overtime, and we needed every ounce of energy that he had. (He had) 14 rebounds, and just all those big layups down the stretch. That was a fun game.”

“...I thought ‘Dre (DeAndre’ Bembry) was phenomenal down the stretch,” Pierce would go on to say, before adding, “I never worry about Dre’s conditioning” when talking about dealing with the five extra minutes of overtime.

You can sense that Pierce places a lot of trust in Bembry on the court and he stepped up in a big way on both ends of the ball.

“...We have a lot of talented guys on this team and we all get to show it sometimes and tonight I was able to show what I could do,” said Bembry postgame.

The Hawks outscored the Wolves 32-23 in the final quarter (the only quarter, excluding the overtime obviously, the Hawks won in this game) to recover from that 10-point deficit, using experience from previous defeats to propel them to an eventual victory.

“It goes back to some of the mistakes we thought we made against Detroit,” said Vince Carter. “It was details. Coach talks about how the little details are very important for us. Now that we’re going through situations like fighting back and giving ourselves a chance to win.”

This team has obviously turned a corner and they’ve been turning a corner since, basically, January and with wins like this you do get the sense that some of these guys are beginning to ‘get it’ and that was the sense in the locker-room.

“It shows you the heart of the guys on this team,” said John Collins. “I felt like tonight we recognized what we needed as a group. We knew we needed to come out and play with a little more energy. The offense was there. The defense was okay. But we knew it was the energy. You saw the heart of our team come out tonight and I think that’s a beautiful thing to see.”

“I feel like we’re all learning,” said Trae Young. “We’re all getting a better feel for each other. It’s a process. It’s going to all pan out here soon. I’m just forward to continuing to build and get better with these guys.”

DeAndre’ Bembry took some deserved shine but ultimately the talking points of this game were obviously Trae Young and John Collins, scoring 36 and 34 points respectively. We’ve looked at a few milestones they reached but let’s break them down individually.

Starting with Young, he didn’t waste any time getting going, scoring 20 points in the first quarter before tying his career-high of 36 points (set in the last game vs. Houston).

Really, we should be talking about Young setting a career-high because the Wolves, in frustration, sent him to the line right at the end of this game when Young already had 35 points — he sinks two, it’s a new career-high of 37. Makes the first, misses the second.

To be fair, he can be allowed a miss at the free throw line because he did earn himself 17 free throws in this game, the final free throw proving to be the only one he missed in the end — when the game was already over and the victory secure.

Young has been getting to the free throw line a lot more of late, attempting over eight free throws per game in his last six games. He has shown growth in this area and the improvement in his craftiness is there to be seen, especially in the way Young has been drawing fouls of late.

In addition to those eight free throw attempts per game over his last six games, in that time Young is also averaging 27 points, 10 assists while shooting 40% from the field and 42% from three.

And looking back a little further...

Young was asked postgame if the game has slowed down for him, to which he agreed but also talked about how he himself has slowed down.

“I think me just slowing down, taking my time on things, focusing more on the details. I think just getting back to normal,” said Young.

In the four games since the All-Star Break, Young is averaging over 30 points per game and his coach believes that the break as well as an improvement in conditioning as the year has progressed have played key roles in Young’s play.

“Some guys—I’ve gone through this enough with different guys—and some guys it takes a while for them to get their regular season legs and conditioning,” said Pierce of Young. “Trae (Young’s) shooting, it requires that. You have to be in shape - especially the type of shots he shoots. He’s getting hounded defensively, and coming off multiple screens, and now he’s shooting 26, 27-foot threes. You need your legs, you need conditioning. You get a week off, you get a couple days off for All-Star break, you get refreshed. I think he’s playing, and you see it.

“He’s refreshed coming off All-Star break, but he’s also got his NBA legs. His durability all year has been great. He hasn’t missed a game for us. He’s started every single game. We’re playing him extra minutes right now. Mainly because—there’s no training wheels, I’ve never had training wheels on him. He’s shot the same amount of shots. He’s playing well. Why would you take him out if he’s playing well like that? I think it’s a combination of those things- refreshed after All-Star break, durability of the season, and playing well.”

A detail that may get lost for some in these recent performances from Young is that he has averaged 38 minutes per game, including another 43 minutes last night which marks a new career-high.

Part of that is due to obviously how the game unfolded and how tight things were as well as Young’s play but also partly due to the Hawks’ point guard situation. Jeremy Lin, of course, has moved on but the christened backup point guard, Jaylen Adams, only played four minutes last night and Joran Sibert checked in ahead of Adams last night with DeAndre’ Bembry acting as backup point guard.

Pierce admitted he had concerns about the fatigue of his group in overtime after the energy expounded in the fourth quarter, heading into overtime.

“The five (extra) minutes are tough,” said Pierce postgame. “To get to overtime, you probably played a group for a long time ... you’re worried about all of the guys...”

“You do worry about a group that’s played so hard to get back into the game and for a long period of time and then to add five minutes, it’s probably not the time to sub. (You’re) Trying to be mindful of who may need a break and how long we can go. I thought John (Collins) was the obvious guy and that was it. It’s tough. Part of youth is they don’t know any better. So it’s good to just let Trae play and he ends up 43 minutes. He’ll feel a lot of it tomorrow and we’ll try be and smart and try get him to normal minutes in the next game.”

There was a period in the game in the second quarter where Adams entered for Young and the Hawks just looked lost out on the floor — the Hawks led 57-53 when Young exited and trailed 64-57 when he re-entered the game after a timeout just before the end of the second quarter.

The Hawks are obviously worse off without Young on the floor and needed all 43 minutes to help his side secure this victory.

Let’s move on to John Collins.

Collins ended with 34 points and eight rebounds, one point off of his career-high.

Similar to how a large bulk of Young’ scoring came in one half, so did Collins’ as he scored 23 points in the second half with 18 (!!) of those coming in the fourth quarter alone, shooting 8-of-9 in the final frame.

The presence of Karl-Anthony Towns played a part in Collins aggressively seeking to score at times.

“Yeah, damn right,” said Collins when asked if the intensity increases when playing players like Towns. “Especially him being the head of the snake for them. Definitely extra emphasis to try to go at him. You know he’s going to be a focal point of their offense. Try to stop him, for sure. So I definitely turned it up a little bit.”

But it all became a bit too much for Collins in overtime, with Lloyd Pierce revealing postgame that Collins asked to come out of the game during overtime. He was clearly gassed, his energy all used up from that 18-point fourth quarter.

“...John (Collins) was terrific tonight,” said Pierce. “His energy was so terrific that he got tired pretty quick(ly) in the overtime period, and especially at the end of the fourth quarter...”

Again, as has often been the case this season, Collins displayed the chemistry between himself and Young as the two connected often last night for baskets/assists.

“Me and John are usually, I mean, we’ve been in-sync all year,” said Young of the chemistry with Collins. “Tonight we made some big plays. He makes me look good. My passes sometimes are bad and he just goes and gets it. It’s always fun playing with my teammates, especially with John.”

“It feels good that we came out and had a chance to show what we see in practice and have been doing for a long time,” said Collins of the chemistry. “We’ve been doing it all year, but I feel like this is a nice example of what we can do together”.

Collins also hit two three-pointers in this game and despite his early struggles shooting from behind the arc when he returned from injury, Collins is now shooting 37% from three-point range — a stat that has definitely flown under the radar and one that has made a big u-turn.

We saw the stat off the top but to be the first teammates age 21 or under to have 30-point games in the same game since Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook...that means something. That’s not a stat you should take lightly. I wouldn’t put everything into it but another indicator that the future is bright (at the very least, fun) in Atlanta with Young and Collins serving — right now — as cornerstones for the Hawks’ future.

“Obviously you can tell that’s the future,” said DeAndre’ Bembry of Young and Collins. “Two young guys that went to the rookie-sophomore game this year. They’ve just been playing well for us. Tonight shows what the future looks like.”

Others outside of Atlanta are beginning to see it too.

“They have great spacing and they run pick-and-rolls continuously, almost every time down,” said Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones. “Trae is a good playmaker and Collins is extremely athletic. John rolls hard to the rim every time, so that’s hard, and he puts pressure on you all the time. We just let them get into a rhythm, get into a flow, and it was just tough to get them out of that.”

Young and Collins combined for 70 points and, to be honest, the Hawks needed it.

They were the only two starters to score in double digits as both Kevin Huerter and Taurean Prince shot 2-of-9 from the field and Dewayne Dedmon struggled with foul trouble (eventually fouling out in the fourth quarter), struggled with the matchup with Towns.

The bench helped out in a big way to make up. Well, the bench... It’s more so Vince Carter and DeAndre’ Bembry, who combined for 33 of the Hawks’ 43 bench points. It was a very rough night in particular for Kent Bazemore, who was scoreless on 0-of-12 shooting in 14 minutes — sometimes it’s not your night...

We’ve talked about DeAndre’ Bembry’s game but Vince Carter was big in this one.

He scored 17 points, including the opening three-pointer of overtime as well as this highlight play:

“It was just whatever was needed,” said Carter of the play. “I was trying to attack the rim. It didn’t happen. He pushed me a little higher. Back in the day, maybe I would’ve dunked it right then. I hadn’t been up that high in a while so I was a little nervous. I wanted to make sure I made the basket.”

The play saw a little comparison to his younger self, an instance — as he said — where he would’ve punched it home.

All in at 24, finesse at 42 — either way, it works.


The Hawks (21-41) are back in action on Friday night at State Farm Arena where they’ll take on the Chicago Bulls in the first part of a ‘home-and-home’ stand (the Hawks will play the Bulls in Chicago on Sunday).

Should be interesting.

Until next time...