Offensively, nobody on the planet is playing better than Trae Young right now. The Hawks star point guard has scored 25+ points in 16 straight games, tying Dominique Wilkins for the franchise record — a record I can almost guarantee he will surpass his next outing against the Kings on Wednesday night.
Young’s scoring might even take a back seat to his passing, though. Over that same stretch, he has tallied double-digit assists 11 times, including 14 assists last night in a game in which he also racked up a career-high 56 points, something that has never been done before in the history of the NBA.
It was easily the best solo performance I have ever seen from a Hawks player. His 56 points came on a ridiculously efficient 27 shots, and Young went a perfect 15-15 from the foul line. He also only had four turnovers to go with his 14 assists. However, despite Young’s career night, the Hawks couldn’t pull out a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, who were missing over half of their starters, including Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
The reason for that? Embarrassingly little effort on the defensive end, which has been a staple of this Hawks team so far this season. They made Anfernee Simons look like Uncle Drew at a local park. The fourth-year man came into yesterday’s matchup averaging just under 12 points per game, but the Hawks allowed him to go off for an easy 43 points on just 21 shots, thanks to a 9-16 mark from behind the arc.
The Trail Blazers as a team shot 52.8% from the field and nearly 44% from three, scoring 136 points in regulation. Pretty much anything they wanted, whether it was around the basket or beyond the arc, they got without having to move the ball at all.
It was a disconcerting effort for the Hawks defensively, which is becoming more and more frustrating with each passing performance. This was a team that was just a couple of games away from the NBA Finals last season, and sure, they’ve suffered through their fair share of injuries and COVID-related issues, but so has everyone else. Yesterday, and many of the Hawks’ losses so far this season have not been because of that; they’ve occurred because of a lack of pride and effort. There is no way this team should be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoff picture this deep into the season. The Hawks have way too much talent and depth for that to happen. Something needs to change, and if it doesn’t happen soon internally, expect Travis Schlenk to be a busy man at the trade deadline.
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