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Trae Young explodes for 49 points, Hawks come up short against Bulls in historic tilt

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What started out as a regular game on a Friday night ended up turning into NBA history.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks were unable to emerge as winners in what was a spectacular encounter with the Chicago Bulls on Friday night at State Farm Arena, falling short 168-161 in fourth (yes, FOURTH!) overtime.

Trae Young set all sort of records (we’ll touch on these later) as he went off for a new career-high of 49 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds in 55 minutes.

For the Bulls, Zach LaVine scored a career-high 47 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, also coming in 55 minutes.

Well then, let’s try and make sense of this one, shall we?

Let’s skip to the fourth quarter, where the Hawks are plugging away at a double-digit deficit.

The Hawks pulled within one point — 111-110 with 5:11 remaining — with a dunk from DeAndre’ Bembry and the momentum seemed to be well and truly back with the Hawks and the crowd was into it, but two big plays from the Bulls put the Hawks on the backfoot again.

Firstly, Otto Porter (who has been a really nice addition for this Bulls team, at least in last night’s showing) hits a contested three to take the sting out of the crowd and puts the Bulls back up by four points:

Immediately following this was a turnover from Trae Young which turned into an opportunity in transition for Zach LaVine, who scores the layup to put the Bulls up by six leading to an Atlanta timeout:

At the time, it felt like it could’ve been a defining little moment in the game as the Hawks had wrestled themselves back from double digits to within a point with everything seemingly swinging in their favor, and, bam! Back down by six again in a blink of an eye.

The Bulls — and not for the first time in this game — had a mini-collapse as moments later but that collapse also marked a part of the game where Trae Young took over. The Bulls call a timeout themselves with that same lead and out of that timeout, they immediately turn the ball over, which Young takes advantage of and cuts the lead to four:

Just about the worst thing you can do — call a timeout yourself, commit a live-ball turnover and concede on the other end as a result.

After another Bulls miss, Young comes down the other end and finds the rolling Dedmon in the pick-and-roll for a dunk to cut the lead to two points:

Next, Dewayne Dedmon (who was excellent last night in a somewhat different role than normal with John Collins missing this one with the flu) comes up with a steal, passes to Young who hits the pull-up three-pointer to give the Hawks the lead and cap off a 7-0 run:

The Hawks began to look like the side that were going to triumph as they went up by five points with a minute remaining after a Young layup but the Bulls had one more run left in them, Otto Porter hitting a three-pointer before scoring a layup to tie the game at 121 apiece with 24 seconds remaining in the game.

Out of the timeout, you knew as soon as the Hawks assembled and how they assembled on the court what was coming next. And the Bulls still couldn’t stop it, as Young drains clock before pulling up for three, hitting what looked like the game-winner with 2.2 seconds remaining:

The shot led to a declaration (of sorts):

That should have proven to be the game-winner but it only ended up being just the start of this one. What a shot though, the Bulls knew what was coming but were powerless to stop it and Young put the exclamation point on an 18-point fourth quarter to go along with six assists in the final period — a point of emphasis for Young.

“That’s something I felt like I needed to do - be aggressive for my team, make plays,” said Young of his 18-point fourth quarter. “I wasn’t making very many plays in the first half (10 points, three assists in the first half). A little bit in the third, but I knew I just needed to make more plays for my teammates.”

Coming out of the timeout, Otto Porter receives the ball, hoists a shot and Dewayne Dedmon is called for the shooting foul (and his fifth personal) and Porter would go to the line to shoot three free throws and the chance to tie the game:

There’s a couple of split opinions on this one but I think Dedmon does catch him on the hand, that piece of contact obviously taking place before Porter’s kicked out leg — I think this is the right call.

Porter hits all three free throws and, with the foul being called with 0.4 seconds left on the clock and with no timeouts left to burn, this did not leave the Hawks with much chance to break the tie one last time in regulation and the game heads to its first overtime.

Young (who scored 34 points through four quarters) got the ball rolling with a three-pointer and showed no sign of stopping there as he sent the game to a second overtime as he goes drives to the rim for the layup:

I tried extensively to find this out after the fact because I was utterly flabbergasted at the time. I searched multiple play-by-plays to see if I had missed any timeouts taken by the Bulls in overtime and found nothing. I’m, therefore, going to assume the Bulls had TWO timeouts to burn AFTER this bucket — there was still a second left on the clock, why on earth did Chicago not call for timeout?? I still cannot believe it — absolutely baffling decision making from Bulls head coach Jim Boylen.

Anyways...they inbound the ball and LaVine’s prayer isn’t answered and to second overtime we go...

By this stage, Dewayne Dedmon had fouled out (during the first overtime) and bodies were beginning to dwindle — John Collins out of this one, Omari Spellman rolling his ankle in the latter stages of the third quarter (from which he did not return), Kevin Huerter approaching his minute limit of 30 minutes and now Dedmon fouling out.

But the Hawks soldiered on and as the overtimes marched, Young became less about the scoring and more about the assisting as fatigue for both sides began to mount.

The second overtime eventually led up to the Hawks taking a three-point lead and holding it into the dying embers of 2OT before Ryan Arcidiacono hits the clutch three-pointer in the corner to tie the game up:

The Hawks then lost another body before the second overtime period ended as Taurean Prince picked up his sixth foul before Otto Porter misses a layup and to third overtime we go.

With every other big now basically out for the count, Alex Len did step up from the third overtime onward but couldn’t hit the three-pointer at the buzzer to end the third overtime period and (sigh) to fourth overtime we go.

Trae Young was gassed by this stage and Jaylen Adams started the fourth overtime in his place. The Hawks managed to survive in his absence as he would check in moments in later.

He would score his 49th point of the night before a missed three from Vince Carter — forced to play power forward in the absence of, well, everyone at this stage — and then came a dangerous point of the game where the Hawks trail by three-points with under a minute remaining. A Chicago basket would makes things very difficult for the Hawks and Zach LaVine obliged, scoring his 47th point and putting the Bulls up by five points with 37 seconds remaining:

The Hawks called for time but were unable to score again and the Bulls iced the game at the free throw line, bringing end to a wild game of basketball.

Four overtimes, a franchise record in points scored in a game, tied franchise-high 22 three-pointers, 22 lead changes and 17 game-ties... One for the history books.

4OT games aren’t too unfamiliar for the Atlanta Hawks, they have featured in three of them inside the last decade: 2012 against the Utah Jazz, 2017 against the New York Knicks and last night against the Bulls.

It was also the most points scored by a team in a losing effort — something that neither would’ve been able to runaway from.

The 329 points the two sides combined for was also the third-most in NBA history.

Ultimately, the Hawks just ran out of gas and bodies as the Bulls scored 13 points in the final overtime.

“Tired. That’s all I got,” said Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce. “That’s probably the longest game… I don’t know how long… it’s 11:25pm right now. It’s a long game. We ran out of bodies. We started to run out of bodies with Omari going down, and Kevin’s minute restriction, and John not here, and the foul-out by Taurean and Dewayne.

“I thought, just a gutsy effort by both teams. There’s really no winner in this one, no loser in this one. Four overtimes, you’re just scrambling, and somebody’s got to go down. We just couldn’t come up with a couple of baskets in the fourth overtime period. I thought all the guys that played, Chicago included--- it was a hell of an effort.”

Usually, Pierce is able to pick out plays throughout the game and talk about them but even he couldn’t muster the energy required to do so last night postgame.

“Trying to piece together what happened, and when it happened- I really can’t string together when a lot of the plays occurred,” said Pierce. “I just know it was back and forth the entire time.

“It’s a tough ball game. The biggest thing is trying to figure out once Dewayne went down, and TP (Taurean Prince) went down—trying to figure out match-ups. They went really small when we got Alex Len on the floor. We were trying to get Trae off Markkanen when we switch. We’re trying to hide Alex on one of their non-shooting smalls. It’s just a tough matchup of figuring out where to put bodies, put our best defenders, and try and contain LaVine and try and contain Porter. I got no sequence tonight.”

Chicago head coach Jim Boylen had a similar issue.

“...There were big plays all over the place; it’s really hard to remember all of them. Big moments as well on both sides, and it’s hard to remember all of them. We just hung in there,” said Boylen.

(Yeah, but did you remember you had two timeouts at the end of OT1, Jim?? Clearly not...)

Some found it tiring, others found it enjoyable.

“That was a fun game to play in, probably one of the most fun games I’ve played in my career,” said Trae Young. “Crazy game. Up-and-down game. We had a lot of guys foul out. John wasn’t here. Omari went down. We were going through things. I’m proud of the way we fought even though we came up short. I loved the way we fought. They had their whole team out there the whole time, so it was great.”

“It’s pretty fun,” said Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen. “We were talking about it being kind of like a playoff game since we play these guys again on Sunday. Obviously, I haven’t been in the playoffs yet, but I bet it’s probably like that. We were just going back-and-forth, so it was a lot of fun out there tonight.”

Markkanen wasn’t the only one to compare it to the playoffs, Pierce drew similar comparisons.

“...It’s like the playoffs, this is exactly what a playoff atmosphere feels like,” said Pierce when asked what to expect on Sunday when the Hawks meet the Bulls again. “You play a team, they’re going through the same sets and you come back two days later you play them again. So they’ll make their adjustments on how to slow Trae (Young) down and we got to make our adjustments to slow (Zach) LaVine down as well.”

For others, the will to win kept them going through the four overtimes.

“Just as competitors, you’re trying to win the game,” said Kevin Huerter. “You keep telling yourself they have to play the same amount of minutes. You’re not going to go this far and all of the sudden give up. Both teams have a lot of guys that wanted to win. You’re not going to be here if you don’t.”

You have to give credit to both sides — to keep digging and, somehow, still make plays even as the minutes for guys racked up well beyond that of a full regulation game.

“I thought both teams had great toughness,” said Boylen. “Just to hang in there, and keep grinding, and to just play the way they played...”

Very rarely will guys be involved in 4OT games throughout their career, and as fun as it was for some it’s downright tiring too.

And it went for both sides.

“Tiring. That’s the only words I can say – tiring as hell,” said Bulls guard Zach LaVine. “It was a good game. I’ve never been part of something that long. We pulled it out though. We kept getting an opportunity to win, (then) making dumb plays or doing the wrong thing. But we pulled it out, so that’s all that matters...”

“...I’ve never played in a four overtime game,” said Huerter. “I don’t want to again.”

Former Hawks forward Paul Millsap — who featured in both of those 4OT games (one for Utah, the other for the Hawks) and played 60 minutes against the Knicks — said something similar to Huerter, basically saying ‘It was fun, but never again.’

Another person who may have a similar mindset was Vince Carter. Carter played a season-high (by far) 45 minutes, scoring 13 points off of the bench.

With the Hawks missing bodies and with Dedmon fouling, the Hawks absolutely needed Carter in this one — there really wasn’t anyone else that could step up after Spellman went down and the Hawks had already re-assigned Alex Poythress to Erie.

Even before, long before, Dedmon fouled out the Hawks needed Carter, as Pierce could not just ride the Dedmon-Len combination for the entire fourth quarter. Between the start of the fourth quarter and the four overtimes, Carter played 28 minutes. Only Young played more minutes for the Hawks in that stretch with 29 minutes.

It certainly wasn’t something Pierce envisioned, who could only rave about Carter postgame..

“I was just trying to keep him at 20 (minutes per game) all year,” said Pierce. “I’ve said it: I don’t know if Vince is getting younger, or what. He’s had unbelievable games this year, quarters, games... He gets another major dunk tonight... There’s just a lot to be said about Vince. At 42 years old, he’s playing 45 minutes, he’s having big games, he’s still dunking on guys, he’s still making timely and big threes, he takes a charge in overtime to give us an opportunity — what else can you say about the guy? He’s just a remarkable example of what our young guys should be and see, about how to respect the game, how to respect the journey and to have high character.”

Everyone knows Carter is ‘Half-Man, Half-Amazing’ (and he is) but for him to play 45 minutes at age 42... That is incredible and a lot of people recognized in the moment how amazing it really was.

“...I was surprised Vince played that long,” said Zach LaVine. “I was talking to him, and I said ‘how are you still walking? I’m barely walking. I don’t know how you’re walking...’”

As you’d imagine, Carter took a little time to begin the recovery process ahead of Sunday’s game against the Bulls but was happy to talk to the media after midnight about his night.

Everyone loves Vince.

But this was a night that belonged to Trae Young (only took forever to get here! That’s how insane this night was!) — 49 points on 17-of-33 shooting from the field, 6-of-13 from three, 9-of-11 from the free throw line, 16 assists and eight rebounds (throw in a steal and block too) in 55 minutes of play.

Now then, let me attempt to try and list some of the accomplishments Young achieved last night...

(Ahem)

With his 49 point and 16 assist night, Trae Young:

  • Recorded the most points from a rookie so far this season.
  • Set a Hawks franchise-record for points in a game from a rookie.
  • Scored the most points for a Hawk in a game since Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s 50-points against the Detroit Pistons in 2001.
  • Joined an exclusive club with some guys called LeBron James and Michael Jordan as the only rookies in the last 40 years to register 40+ points and 10+ assists in a game.
  • Became the fourth rookie since the ABA-NBA merger to score 35 or more points in at least three straight games, joining Bernard King, Michael Jordan, and Allen Iverson to do so.
  • Became the first rookie in NBA history to post a stat line that included 49-or-more points and 16-or-more assists and is only the second player in NBA history to finish a game with those minimums (James Harden accomplished this with his 53 points and 17 assists game in 2016).
  • Became the first rookie since Oscar Robertson in 1961 to record two consecutive 35+ points, 10+ assists games.
  • Became the first rookie since Earl Monroe in 1968 to put up 49+ points and 10+ assists in a game.

(All of those stats courtesy of the NBA, Yahoo and Hawks PR)

And breathe.

(I apologize if I missed some, there was a lot of ground to cover there.)

It was a historical night for Young, who even on those nights where he shot (sometimes, very) poorly knew better nights would come, despite the droughts and the ups-and-downs. All of those led to a night like this...

“It’s a great feeling,” said Young postgame. “I’ve missed a lot but I trust in my ability and the work I’ve put in. I’m going to make a lot of them too...”

Young became the first rookie since LeBron to have 40 or more points with 10 or more assists in a game and while Young was ‘humbled’ to be in the same conversation as James but wants to create his own path.

“Being in a conversation with a guy like LeBron, it’s humbling and an honor, first off,” said Young. “But at the same time, I’m trying to leave my own mark, trying to continue to make plays and try continue to do things for my team. Just gotta continue to do what I’m doing.”

There was no shortage of praise for Young last night.

There’s actually not a ton of quotes relating to Young’s game on the Hawks’ side of things (Lloyd Pierce did not have a ton to say about it in his postgame comments) but Young certainly made an impression to the Bulls.

“I thought Trae Young was…I mean for a rookie to do that, I thought he was unbelievable...,” said coach Boylen in his opening statement.

“I just think he played well,” Boylen went on to say. “I mean, we were trying, we were throwing guys at him. Shaq (Harrison) had him some, Kris (Dunn) had him some, Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) had him some. We just tried to tag-team him a bit, same thing we used to do when I was in San Antonio any time we were going against Steph Curry. You know, put fresh guys on him, move guys around on him, but he just played great. He was all-pro tonight, you just have to give him credit.”

“He didn’t surprise me at all, I knew what kind of player he is,” said Lauri Markkanen. “He is a really cool guy and I’m glad he is doing the stuff that he has been doing. Hopefully he isn’t doing it again on Sunday against us, but he is just a really good player.”

“Trae Young is an incredible talent. You can already see he has that ‘it’ factor...” said Zach LaVine, who Young battled all night.

As you could also imagine, Twitter was ablaze as people watched Young’s fourth quarter and overtime antics unfold.

But despite that, despite everything, Young was unhappy not to emerge with the victory.

“First and foremost, nothing that I (did) tonight means a lot to me because we didn’t win,” said Young of his 49-point performance. “I’m all about winning first. I played really well, scored a lot of points, got a lot of assists, I could’ve done more to help my team win.”

You love to hear that — winning mentality right there.

Speaking of turnovers, Young had nine on the game but on a night like last night with fatigue etc (and the Hawks actually did a very good job taking care of the ball, 19 turnovers in 4OT is a great night for them in that department, just 12 turnovers in regulation) I think he can be given a pass on this one, no pun intended.

Here’s a look at Young’ shotchart:

The damage was done both inside and out as you can see — with regards the baskets at the rim, a good part of that was the Bull’s pick-and-roll coverage of Young, especially later on when the Hawks tried to exploit switches from Markkanen at the 5, taking advantage of the fact that the Bulls’ enforcer, Robin Lopez, was on the bench. That, and, well, some of the Bulls’ guards are not hot defensively. Kris Dunn had some good possessions at times as did Arcidacono but for the most part those were not enough to halt Young...

It was a long battle for both teams and they get to do it all again on Sunday afternoon, the Hawks will take on the Bulls in Chicago.

The priority between now and then is rest and recovery.

“Just recovery,” said Pierce when asked what his postgame message was for his side. “These guys, in a four overtime game, the only thing that really matters right now is making sure they take as much time as they need in the locker room. Vince, this has to be a record for anyone over 40—he played 45 minutes tonight. Our guys need ice tubs, they need massages, they need treatment, they need whatever it is, (and) we’re going to meet at the plane tomorrow.

“That was the most important thing - it was a gutsy effort (with) a lot of tired bodies. They need to understand, especially the young guys- Trae played 55 minutes, so he needs to understand what recovery is. He may not feel it now, and he’s got adrenaline because of the career highs and things like that. He’ll feel it tomorrow.”

The status of Vince Carter will be interesting, given that he’s 42 years old and just played 45 minutes in a game.

To which Carter replied, “Why not?”

“I get tomorrow, I get a day (of rest),” said Carter via Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “2:30 is going to come early but that’s OK. Whatever I have to do, I’ll do it. As far as preparation, I’ve been around, I’ve learned how to prepare my body, even at this age, for times like these. I’mma do it and just go from there. I plan on playing. It’ll probably be a game-time decision and it’s obviously up to the coaching staff, I’m sure they’ll ask me or make their decision. But I’m going to prepare, sleep good tonight and do all that needs to be done for myself to get ready tomorrow.”


Let’s try hit on everything else below this little line here, because a lot of stuff got lost in this game...

  • The Bulls ended up shooting 23 more free throws than the Hawks, 21 being the difference in made free throws in the end (35-of-48 for the Bulls, 17-of-25 for the Hawks). There were some interesting calls at times but the Hawks just found themselves in the penalty early and often in this game. That’s where a lot of the disparity comes from.
  • Alex Len led all bench scorers with 24 points, tying a season-best. Len had to step up (and did step up) as the Hawks’ frontcourt/center depth depleted throughout the game. Len’s 24 points helped the Hawks win the bench battle, 57-34.
  • Kevin Huerter, still limited in playing time right now due to the Hawks’ cautious approach (which Lloyd Pierce elaborated on postgame) but did enjoy a big dunk on Lauri Markkanen, who challenged late:

Maybe not so sneaky after all...

  • The Bulls won the rebounding battle 62-59, an area of the game that Jim Boylen credits his team as to winning this game.

“...The one thing we talked about, to win, I felt like we had to win the boards,” said Boylen. “We were really fearful of their rebounding, and I thought we hung in there. I think we won the boards by three, and that is a huge stat against this team...”

John Collins not playing obviously helps in this regard but, to be fair, the Bulls limited the Hawks’ activity on the offensive glass — just nine offensive rebounds for Atlanta in this one.

  • It was another tough night for Kent Bazemore. After going 0-of-12 in his last outing vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bazemore shot 1-of-8 last night as his struggles continued.
  • It was odd to see the Bulls go away from Lauri Markkanen in the overtime periods — given that he was having a good game up to that points — but the reasons for this came to light postgame, Markkanen struggling with the flu.

The Hawks (21-42) will only get one day to recover from this mammoth of a game before their chance to exact revenge comes on Sunday afternoon in Chicago.

Should be a hoot.

Until next time...