April 21, 2023, 10:06 p.m
Atlanta – Trae Young hasn’t lost his confidence even after a dismal streak of playoff performances.
Finally, he looked like that charismatic guard who carried the Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago.
Young scored 32 points in his best playoff game since 2021 and gave the Atlanta Hawks a glimmer of hope by defeating the Boston Celtics 130-122 on Friday night to cut the lead 2-1 in the first round.
Young hit a step back 3-pointer from the corner with 2:21 left and dropped another massive field goal on a float in the fairway with 45 seconds left before Jaylen Brown left for a 3-pointer that would have him tied for the Celtics.
The seventh-seeded Hawks will even attempt a series showdown against the second-seeded Celtics in Game 4 Sunday night at State Farm Arena.
“I knew I could play that way,” Young said. “I wasn’t worried.”
Probably not, but a lot of ATL were sure that he really was a franchise player.
Lost in the first round to Miami a year ago, Young averaged just 15.4 points per game while recording more assists (31) than assists (30). He wasn’t much better in Boston’s first two matches, shooting 14 of 40.
But, working in sync with compatriot DeGaunt Murray, Young knocked down 12 of 22 attempts, made nine assists and grabbed six rebounds, while making only four turnovers.
“Guardians are supposed to control the game,” Young said. “We consider ourselves good goalkeepers.”
They definitely played a part in it. Murray had another big game for the Hawks with 25 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:40 remaining that helped Atlanta protect their lead. He added six rebounds and five assists.
“They were talking to each other, figuring out what the other guys were thinking and playing against each other,” Hawks coach Quinn Snyder said of his backcourt. “Once, I told myself to shut up and leave them.”
The duo really were at their best when it mattered the most. Young scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, while Murray scored 7, which is 22 of Atlanta’s 30 points in that period.
They were the first teammates of the Hawks to each have at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in a playoff game since Lenny Wilkins and Bill Bridges in 1966, when the franchise was still called St. Louis.
Jason Tatum scored 29 points to lead Boston, which barely held off a challenge in the first two games of the series.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Marcus Smart, who added 24 points for the Celtics.
In Boston, the Celtics regained a 13-point lead. In Atlanta, the Falcons put up one last fight.
With Derrick White benched early on two quick fumbles, the Hawks exploited a hole in Boston’s defense to freshen things up. Atlanta came off 30 of 46 shots (65.2%) in the first half.
This is where the Celtics essentially lost the game, Smart said, allowing the Hawks to gain some much-needed confidence.
“You get that extra boost when you get home,” he said. “We just need to do a better job of making it difficult for them.”
Backed by a standing crowd, the Hawks built a 14-point lead—their largest lead of the series—at the end of the first half.
But the Celtics responded with eight straight points and entered the locker room 74-67.
This was Atlanta’s first win over Boston this season. The Falcons dropped all three regular season meetings.
The Hawks had the most points in a playoff game since a 137-125 win over Detroit in the first round in 1986. They also had seven double-digit players, tying their playoff record.
Celtics: White played only 9:58 minutes in the first half after being disallowed for two fouls before the game was five minutes old. … Smart landed hard on the tailbone with two and a half minutes left, but stayed in the game. “It hurts,” he said. “We’ll see how you feel tomorrow morning.” »
Hawks: Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a shot to the face against Malcolm Brogdan early in the fourth quarter. Bogdanović knelt in pain and passed out while resting. … Basketball Hall of Famer Dominic Wilkins felt ill before the game and did not serve as an analyst on the Hawks’ regional broadcasts. Brian Oliver took Wilkins’ usual place.
The Celtics still have every chance on their side. The Falcons are 0-26 in the playoffs when they have lost their first two games in the franchise’s 74 seasons.