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Trae Young scores 50 as Hawks top Heat, 129-124

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Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The seemingly endless NBA All-Star break is over and the Atlanta Hawks returned to the floor in competitive action on Thursday evening against the Miami Heat. In what was a wildly entertaining game, the Hawks began the stretch run on a high note, topping the playoff-bound Heat by a final score of 129-124 on a night best remembered for Trae Young’s career-high explosion with 50 points.

The Hawks drew first blood, with De’Andre Hunter generating the first bucket of the second “half” by beating the shot clock at the rim.

Atlanta struggled in the opening minutes, though, with the Heat taking an 11-4 lead amid some uneven play from the home team. The Hawks did respond, with Trae Young connecting on his first three attempts from three-point range, the last of which tied the game at 23-23.

Miami pushed to a four-point lead after 12 minutes but, after a shaky start to the second quarter, Atlanta put together an impressive stretch. The Hawks scored 15 (!) straight points, with three-pointers from Cam Reddish and Hunter serving as bookends for a strong run.

That burst gave the Hawks an 11-point lead but, immediately, the Heat zoomed to a 15-5 spurt of their own, erasing the margin. Eventually, Miami took a one-point lead into halftime but, with 19 points for Young and solid balance across the board, the Hawks played quite well in the first half overall.

After the break, the Heat took a four-point lead but, in the span of exactly one play, the margin was reset to zero on a four-point play from Young.

The Hawks battled foul trouble, headlined by John Collins picking up his fourth foul early in the half, but good flashes from Hunter helped to bridge the gap.

Miami slowly pushed their third-quarter lead to as many as 11, with the Hawks struggling to find offensive footing. Reddish did deliver a couple of nice finishes, including one that kick-started a late push.

After Young connected on a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the third quarter, the Hawks trailed by only seven points, keeping the door open for a late charge.

On cue, Atlanta began the fourth quarter with seven straight points, punctuated by a three-pointer by Young that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Young wasn’t done there, creating two points for Collins on the next possession and then knocking down another (very) deep three. Atlanta actually took the lead briefly on a pair of free throws from Teague at the 6:39 mark but, with Miami scoring on the next three possessions, the Hawks called timeout with 5:22 remaining when trailing 115-110.

While Atlanta was fighting an uphill battle in theory, they made every play down the stretch to secure the win. Young tied the game on a three-point play with 2:36 to go and, while the Hawks fell down by five points again at 124-119, Atlanta ended the game on a 10-0 run.

Hunter converted a three-pointer to tie the game at 124 with less than a minute remaining, setting the table for Reddish to generate a steal and dunk to take the lead.

From there, the Hawks got the requisite stops and, with a bevy of free throws, Young secured his first 50-point game.

The 50 points were generated on 12 of 25 shooting, with 8 of 15 from three-point range and a sparkling 18 of 19 from the free throw line. Ironically, Young’s only miss at the line occurred on his final attempt but, with the game fully secured, his performance stood on its own, marking the first 50-point effort by a member of the Hawks since Shareef Abdur-Rahim in 2001.

There were strong performances, including 17 points from Hunter and Huerter, 16 points from Reddish and 12 points each from Collins and Teague. In the end, though, it was Young’s night, and the Hawks pulled off an impressive upset in memorable fashion.

After a day off on Friday, the Hawks will return to State Farm Arena for another intriguing game on Saturday night when the Dallas Mavericks come to town.

Stay tuned.