About Last Night
About Last Night

About Last Night: Trae Young breaks out

Hawks rookie delivers historic performance, an unexpected defensive battle breaks out in Denver and Doc Rivers weighs in on Rondo-Paul brawl

Dan McCarney, NBA.com

Oct 22, 2018 12:41 AM ET

No matter what the Cavaliers did, they had no answer for Hawks rookie Trae Young on Sunday.

Comparing a rookie with one year of college experience -- even one as impressive as Trae Young's flame-throwing freshman season at Oklahoma -- to a future Hall of Famer is almost always an exercise in hyperbole. 

But fair or not, when you're an undersized point guard with virtually unlimited shooting range and a penchant for racking up numbers in ridiculous bunches, observers are probably going to mention you in the same breath as Warriors superstar Stephen Curry. 

In Young's case, the parallels only grew stronger when Hawks GM Travis Schlenk, formerly of those same Warriors, nabbed him in a Draft-day trade with the Mavericks in exchange for European wunderkind Luka Doncic and an additional first-round pick. 

If those comparisons bother Young, well, he didn't do himself any favors on Sunday, when he enjoyed one of the finest first-year performances in NBA history. Indeed, in savaging the Cavaliers for 35 points and 11 assists, Young achieved a stat line not seen from an NBA rookie since Curry himself in 2010, and only 11 rookies overall. 

Per Basketball Reference, that list of 11 rookies includes such legends as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. Add Young's six 3-pointers, and the list shrinks to just Curry and Jason Kidd. Add Young's single turnover, and the list shrinks to just ... Young.

It was a welcome showing for the Hawks, who have been treated to flashes from Young since NBA Summer League but nothing like Sunday's outburst, in which he sank 13 of 23 shots overall and orchestrated the offense like a seasoned veteran. And it came in just his third NBA game. 

Given his dearth of experience, and the setbacks that no doubt lay ahead for a rebuilding Hawks team pegged to again finish near the bottom of the standings, it would be foolish to anoint Young this early. After all, he only just turned 20 last month. 

But for at least one historic afternoon, the Curry comparisons seemed pretty dead-on. (If nothing else, Doncic was impressed!)

 
Trae Young reacts after his historic performance against the Cavaliers.

Damn the torpedoes!

Most players might ease themselves back into action in their first game back after needing a month to recuperate from knee surgery. Most players are not Russell Westbrook. 

 

Unexpected slug fest

It's obviously still early, but the NBA's per-game scoring average entered Sunday at a whopping 113.1 points, its highest since 1969-70. 

So when the high-powered Nuggets took on the even more high-powered Warriors, an offensive extravaganza seemed all but assured. 

Wrong! Against all expectations, a defensive battle broke out in Denver, with the Nuggets holding the Warriors under 100 points -- something that happened only 16 times in their 103 games last season -- thanks to Juancho Hernangomez's game-winning block at the rim. (Said teammate Gary Harris postgame: "Mi amigo!")

 
Juancho Hernangomez denies Damian Jones to preserve the Nuggets' 100-98 victory.

The game was so rugged that Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who made history on Saturday as the first NBA player to shoot perfectly in a triple-double since Wilt Chamberlain, actually missed a shot. (Seven, to be exact.)

The Warriors' first loss of the season extended their early shooting woes, with everyone not named Curry combining to shoot just 20 percent from 3-point range through three games. 

 

Eyes don't lie

Think Harris knows he got away with one on this "strip" of Kevin Durant? 

 

Bad blood

Few people have better insight into Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo than Doc Rivers, who coached both for extended stints with the Clippers and Celtics, respectively. But even he was at a loss after the two traded punches during an ugly brawl late in the Rockets' road victory over the Lakers late Saturday at Staples Center. (Paul, Rondo and Lakers forward Brandon Ingram were all given multi-game suspensions.) 

Some date the obvious disdain between the two back to 2009, when Rondo reportedly told Paul he'd never win a championship. (Roughly 10 years later, Rondo's alleged remark has proven to be quite prescient.) Others have reported that Paul insulted Rondo by attributing his lone ring to riding the coattails of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in Boston. 

Regardless, Rivers knows one thing: The two won't be exchanging Christmas cards any time soon. 

“They’ve had their run-ins,” said Rivers before Sunday's Paul-less game against the Rockets, as reported by Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. “I’m not actually sure what it’s all over.

“I know at one point they both wanted to be known as the best point guard but it’s got to be more than that. There always is and I don’t know what it is but there’s no love lost, there’s no doubt about that.”

 

Quote of the night

"I’m just glad they didn’t suspend Boris Diaw again." -- Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, obviously still scarred from the Suns' playoff loss to the Spurs in 2007


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