Following Game 2, everybody was rightfully wondering if the Trae Young that dominated the 2021 playoffs had gone into hiding. In his last eight postseason games heading into Game 3 of the Hawks series with the Celtics, he was averaging just 16.4 points and 6.6 assists — nearly half of his season averages — on 31.7% from the field and 17.5% from deep. Young was arguably the worst player on the court in most of those games, rightfully leading to criticism, but he silenced all his doubters in Games 3 and 4.
In the Hawks return to Atlanta, Young scored 32 points on over 50% from the field with nine assists. He was also critical in the fourth quarter, leading to the victory. Young then followed it up with an even better performance in Game 4, despite the loss, scoring 35 points to go along with 15 assists. However, both of those showings paled in comparison to what he did in Game 5 to save the Hawks season for at least a couple of more days.
Without Dejounte Murray out because of a suspension for bumping an official following Game 4, Young had his chance to remind the world of the superstar that he is. Atlanta came out swinging, opening up a slight lead after the first quarter, but the Celtics won the second period by double-digits and went into halftime up eight.
The third quarter was more of the same, and the start of the fourth had to have every Hawks fan thinking these would be the final six minutes of an underwhelming season. Then, Ice Trae happened.
To say the Hawks star point guard took over wouldn’t be doing his performance justice. With 3:49 left in the game, John Collins made a seven-footer to cut the deficit to 105-11. That would be the last time a Hawks player not named Trae Young scored a basket.
Following a defensive stop, Young hit back-to-back threes to tie the game. A Robert Williams putback gave the Celtics the lead back with just over two minutes to go, but Young was relentless. About a minute later, he drew a foul that sent him to the free throw line. A technical foul on Jayson Tatum gave him three opportunities, and he sunk them all, barely touching the net on each attempt.
The Celtics would regain the lead following a jump ball, which was won by Boston and immediately followed by an alley-oop jam to Robert Williams, who has been a handful for the Hawks the entire series. However, Atlanta was bailed out by Marcus Smart the very next position, fouling Trae Young 50 feet away from the basket and sending him to the free throw line, where he refused to miss.
With only 15 seconds remaining, the Celtics would not die. Derrick White was fouled on a drive to the basket on a questionable call. The Hawks reviewed, but the call stood, and White sunk both of his free throws, giving the Celtics the lead again with 7.1 seconds remaining.
A Hawks timeout followed, setting up an in-bounds play where everyone in the arena knew where the ball was going. This was Trae Young’s game to lose, and nobody was going to take the final shot from him. The Hawks got the ball into Young in the backcourt, where he took a few dribbles forward before pulling up from 30 feet.
It was one of those shots from Young where everyone screamed, “No, No, No,” which was soon followed by, “Yes, Yes, Yes!” The shot fell with two seconds to go, giving the Hawks a two-point lead. The Celtics were able to get a decent opportunity for Jayson Tatum at the end of the game, but his shot fell short of the rim, and the Hawks stole Game 5 in a place that is nearly impossible to win at as the road team.
Atlanta now has life in the series. They go back home with a chance to tie things up with Dejounte Murray returning, and there’s a possibility they force a Game 7 where anything can happen. Regardless, whatever Atlanta accomplishes moving forward is icing on the cake. Trae Young and the Hawks have shown a lot in a series against arguably the best team in the NBA. Quin Snyder was the right hire, and Young has silenced all of his doubters. This team may not be as far from seriously competing as we thought following a dismal regular season.
Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire