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Young’s statement game pushes Hawks past Suns

Phoenix Suns v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks are quietly on a three-game winning streak. Just a day after Trae Young was snubbed as an All-Star reserve, he responded with an exceptional performance, leading the Hawks to a victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Jusuf Nurkic opened the game with six points in the paint for the Suns, hinting at a potential challenge for the Hawks. However, he was limited to just eight points for the remainder of the game. Dejounte Murray, who shot 2-for-5 in the first quarter, scored the first basket for the Hawks but struggled to find his rhythm until the fourth quarter.

Clint Capela, the NBA’s leader in offensive rebounds, continued his dominance on the offensive glass from the outset.

It would prove to be an impressive quarter from Trae Young, who would score 11 points on 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. First, he nailed a step-back three over Nurkic.

Then, Devin Booker scored seven straight points by drilling a three, a midrange, and sinking two at the charity stripe. The Suns took a 15-12 lead before a 29-footer from Young tied it back up.

On the following possession, Young stripped Booker and scored a layup. Young’s defensive intensity was good, and this is just one play that highlights it.

The Suns were able to find Nurkic often with a mismatch down low, serving as a solid eight point foundation for them in the quarter. Though Young scored 11 in the quarter, this pass to Okongwu may have trumped all.

Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal combined for 15 points, presenting a formidable challenge for the Hawks without De’Andre Hunter. Despite this, the Hawks maintained a narrow lead of 33-30 at the end of the first quarter.

Bogdan Bogdanovic took charge in the second quarter, contributing 12 points, including two three-pointers. Trae Young assisted on four of Bogdanovic’s five made shots in the quarter. Meanwhile, Durant added 10 points and Beal chipped in seven for the opposing Suns. Bogdanovic has regained his form after a somewhat inconsistent period from late December to January, with four three-pointers made in each of his last five games.

Bogdanovic’s offense proved fruitful for Onyeka Okongwu, who he assisted three times in the game, and twice in the second quarter.

Throughout the majority of the second quarter, the Hawks held onto a one- or two-possession lead. Trae Young contributed six points and dished out six assists during this period. Notably, he sunk a trademark logo-three.

Although inefficient on three-point shooting this season, Okongwu managed to connect from the corner for his seventh point of the quarter. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant showcased his scoring prowess with a combination of three-pointers and midrange shots over defenders’ outstretched arms. Despite Durant’s contributions, the Hawks managed to secure an eight-point lead with under two minutes remaining.

While Johnson’s initial attempt or one of Capela’s follow-up shots would have been ideal, Capela’s offensive rebounding skills often provide numerous second-chance opportunities for himself and his teammates, leading to missed easy baskets at times.

Late in the second quarter, Saddiq Bey suffered an ankle injury and was unable to return to the game due to a sprained ankle.

Following Bey’s injury, the Suns drained a three-pointer, and Grayson Allen converted an and-one layup over Young. Despite these efforts, the Hawks held a narrow 65-63 lead at halftime.

Trae Young quickly asserted himself in the third quarter, knocking down two three-pointers within the first two minutes. It’s worth noting that Young committed multiple turnovers in this game, totaling seven, although his overall performance overshadowed this aspect.

Devin Booker scored 13 points in the third quarter, while Durant and Beal combined for three points and eight assists. On a broader note, the Hawks continue to see success with Johnson in short roll situations. Seen here, he lofts a beautiful pass for Capela to put in the rim.

Wes Matthews, seeing an uptick in minutes due to Bey’s second half absence, made two three-pointers in the third quarter to give the Hawks a boost. While Young finished with an impressive 15 assists, there was at least one easy assist left on the board.

Johnson capitalized twice on defenders’ slight distance at the three-point line, sinking two threes throughout the game.

Murray faced difficulties throughout the game, remaining scoreless in the entirety of the second quarter and failing to make a field goal in the third. However, he managed to earn trips to the free-throw line in the closing minutes of the third quarter.

The Hawks relinquished their lead after Allen’s basket gave the Suns an 88-86 advantage with 3:35 left in the quarter. Despite this setback, a bucket from Okongwu and a three-pointer from Matthews helped the Hawks reclaim the lead. Murray’s successful free throws extended the Hawks’ lead to five points entering the fourth quarter.

Trae Young opened the fourth quarter with a midrange shot, giving the Hawks a 102-95 lead. Facing defensive attention from the Suns, Young’s teammates needed to step up to maintain the lead. In this instance, Johnson capitalized on the defensive focus on Young.

Murray stepped up with an impressive fourth quarter. He scored 13 points on 5-for-9 from the field, including this steal and score.

A three-pointer from Bogdanovic pushed the lead out to 10, but Durant answered with a three-pointer of his own. After some back and forth, Young again extended the lead to double digits with a steal and three-pointer just above the five minute mark.

Durant helped the Suns bring it as close as 123-118, but some layups from Murray put the game away.

Young had three turnovers in the quarter, one of them on an attempted nutmeg that he put just out of his own reach.

Young finished with 32 points, 15 assists, three steals, and a block. Bogdanovic contributed 23 points, while Murray added 22 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Johnson contributed 16 points, along with seven rebounds, four assists, a block, and a steal. The big men combined for 26 points, 17 rebounds, and two blocks.

When asked about the scoring from the bench postgame, Snyder had this to say about Bogdanovic and Okongwu.

“Sometimes you take it for granted, the shots that Bogi hits. He’s always ready to shoot, and he’s able to shoot contested shots. Onyeka was terrific, he did so many good things on both ends of the floor... I thought the job that he did defensively out on the perimeter, that’s hard, and he was very good.”

When asked about Trae Young not being selected to the All-Star game, Snyder said it’s obviously something every player wants, but media would have to ask him the questions. However, Snyder did say this on Young, “He’s not playing for accolades, he’s playing to win.”

Young was then asked about being second in fan voting, but still not making the All-Star game.

“I got a lot of love for the fans, I got a lot of love for the fans out there. I ain’t got much to say about it right now.”

Then, he answered questions on possibly being an injury replacement.

“I would just because I know I’m not representing just myself. Instead of being selfish, and being like, an asshole towards it... who knows if they will offer me, that’s how funny it is... I would go, but, want to get the invite of course first.”

The Hawks will now play the Warriors tonight for the second game of their back to back.