Trae Young Got the Last Word in his NBA Postseason Debut
Details of Game 1 from Trae Young
In his NBA playoff debut, Trae Young hit a game-winning floater with 0.9 seconds left to give the Hawks a 107-105 win and 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series with the New York Knicks.
On the winning shot, Trae preyed on the perfect moment to push past his defender after waving off a screen from John Collins, who had lost a shoe trying to break free from a defensive player's grasp.
Lou Williams had a word of advice in the huddle before the final score.
"I told him, 'Don't pass the ball.' That was my advice. You kind of trick yourself into thinking you've got to make a play? Hey, go win the basketball game. This is your team. These guys have put the franchise on your shoulders, as well as the other young guys. You're the 'Point God'; go win the basketball game."
Trae said that Williams' encouragement helped him make a quick decision.
"That's the best part about Lou and some of the older guys that we have. I'm very smart at basketball, and I feel like I know a lot, but there's also a lot of things I don't know. There are definitely times in the moment like that where we call the screen up and we still go off it. But Lou telling me that, it clicked in my mind as soon as John lost his shoe that I needed just to clear it out and go win it."
As scintillating as the final shot that silenced Madison Square Garden was, Trae spread top-level point guard play over his 35 minutes of action: 32 points on 11-of-23 shooting plus 10 assists against just two turnovers. And in the 13 minutes that Trae didn't play, Williams filled in and added 13 points.
At one point in the fourth quarter, after a sequence of Williams' scores that sliced into a Knick lead, Trae approached Nate McMillan.
"Trae basically said, "Look, let him go. He's doing a good job,' " McMillan said.
Trae re-entered the game a couple of minutes later with fresh legs that helped him make good on a message that he has been getting from McMillan for some time now.
"Play your game," McMillan said. "Play with confidence. Have fun out there. But understand that you have to control tempo for us."
Trae did just that. He only had the two turnovers – on the road, facing a stout defense and a raucous crowd – while facilitating for his offense with precision. Look at the following sequence of three consecutive plays in the fourth quarter. It is the same play run three times, a pick-and-roll play for Trae and Clint Capela where a third offensive player tries to jump in and screen for Capela as he rolls to the basket.
Atlanta Hawks Spain Pick-and-roll -- 3 straight possessions in clutch offense, 3 straight buckets, all assisted by Trae Young
- Trae lob to Capela
- Trae skip to Bogdanović open corner 3
- Trae behind the back to open De'Andre Hunter pop 3 pic.twitter.com/8zwghvzsUL
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) May 24, 2021
Trae nabbed three assists in quick succession by making three different (and correct) reads to three different players: a lob, a three in the corner, a three at the top of the key. As the Knicks' defense changed its approach, Trae changed with it. On each pass, Trae hit his recipient in the hands and in stride, and it all added up. Per ESPN Stats and Info, Trae Young became the second player in NBA history with 30+ points, 10+ assists and 5+ rebounds in his postseason debut. LeBron James was the first.
If the road crowd occasionally got boisterous or profane, Trae wasn't having it, and he eventually squelched it regardless, putting a finger to his lips to remind them after the winning floater.
"At the end of the day, fans can only talk. They can't guard me."
And Trae knows that much work lies ahead.
"The work is not done yet. It's just one game."
The Hawks face the Knicks in Game 2 Wednesday night.