Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Hawks Rally to Win Game 3
In 2021, the Hawks made a deep postseason run after getting their first playoff win on a Trae Young floater in the game's final seconds.
In 2022, the Hawks got their first playoff win on a game-winning Trae floater in the final seconds.
It started with a handoff.
With the Hawks trailing by a point with 12 seconds left, Bogdan Bogdanovic gathered the rebound off a Jimmy Butler miss and had the presence of mind to get the ball to Trae with haste so that Trae could attack the Heat defense before it could set up.
"There was no way I was calling timeout," Head Coach Nate McMillan said of the decision to let Trae push in transition.
The Hawks embraced the chaos. Trae pushed the ball down the court. Bogdanovic criss-crossed in front of him to distract the defense. Trae absorbed a bump from P.J. Tucker 20 feet from the rim, accelerated, and lofted a floater over the outstretched fingertips of Butler.
"For me, I'm just running with him," Onyeka Okongwu said of the play. "If he misses the floater, I'm right there for a tip dunk or an offensive rebound."
The shot yielded no rebound. It kissed softly off the left side of the rim, back off the glass, and down for another two taps on the rim before dropping through with 4.4 seconds left. De'Andre Hunter contested a Jimmy Butler miss at the buzzer to seal a 111-110 Hawks' win that cut their series deficit in half.
"He hit a tough runner," Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra said of Trae's game-winner. "He makes that look easy. That's not the easiest shot going full speed."
Trae led the Hawks with 24 points and 8 assists, while Bogdanovic added 18 points and 6 assists.
The Heat entered the fourth quarter with an eight-point lead on the strength of a 21-0 third-quarter run fueled by the defense of Tucker and Bam Adebayo. With nine minutes left in the game, the Hawks trailed by 14.
McMillan went to a lineup of Trae, Kevin Huerter, and three players from the bench: Okongwu, Delon Wright, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The lineup gave the Hawks the speed and ball handling to counteract the Heat's defensive pressure on Trae along with some extra defensive punch.
Right away, Bogdanovic and Huerter teamed up to get Delon Wright an open three-pointer against a tilted Miami defense. The Hawks then reeled in the Heat on the strength of three fourth-quarter threes by Bogdanovic, each one eliciting a bigger snarl from him than the one before as the shots breathed life into the Hawks' confidence.
"Bogi, when he gets hot like that, he's one of the best shooters in this league," Trae said. "He got going tonight and it really sparked our offense."
Home court helped, too.
"I feel like whenever I rise on a three, the crowd goes like this," Bogdanovic said, raising his eyebrows and widening his eyes. "It gives you energy. It gives that extra boost to all the players and it translates to the whole team, especially when you hit the three. I love this place. I love how the crowd reacts."
As much as Bogdanovic juiced the offense, Wright and Okongwu helped seal things on the defensive side – while also shooting a combined 10-for-10 from the field. Okongwu played the final 15:22 of the game with Clint Capela out and John Collins trying to play through a pair of nagging injuries.
"Our bench really played well the entire game," McMillan said. "I thought the first half they came in and gave us a lift. The second half, we were definitely hoping for the same after giving up a big third quarter. And they did. I thought Delon, Bogi, Big O were great in this game tonight on both ends of the floor."
With the game-winner, Trae joined LeBron James as the only other NBA player with multiple go-ahead postseason baskets in the last five postseasons. The bench played well enough to make the comeback noble; Trae hit the clincher to make it memorable.
These are moments that make sports great, and Trae has a knack for making them. Savor each and every one.