Trae Young Road Villain Game 5 Boston Atlanta Hawks
(Atlanta Hawks)

Trae Young Plays Perfect Road Villain Once More, This Time in Boston

Last week, before playing in his first-ever NBA postseason, Hawks forward Saddiq Bey pointed out carefully that the fringe of green at the front of his hairline had nothing to do with the green of his first-round opponent, the Boston Celtics.

"It's for The Joker," Bey said of Batman's nemesis. "He's my favorite villain ever."

After Tuesday, one would hope that teammate Trae Young rose in Bey's all-time villain rankings. Trae added Boston to a list of terrified East Coast cities that also includes New York and Philadelphia when he dribbled into a 30-footer with 2.8 seconds left and sent 19,156 Boston fans home crestfallen after the Hawks' 119-117 victory.

Trae put on a performance for the ages, scoring 38 points, including the Hawks' final 14 points of the game. The Hawks overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to send the series back to Atlanta for Game 6 with Boston still holding a 3-2 lead in the series.

"Jaylen (Brown) was backing up pretty hard," Trae said of the game-winning possession. "I think he was expecting me to try to go by him and get to the basket and get a layup or a floater or try to draw a foul. I could tell he was backing up. And then Marcus was sprinting up to trap, and at that point, I looked up and there were only three or four seconds left, maybe two. Then I had to trust in what I've done my whole life and shoot with confidence."

And shoot he did. In scoring 23 fourth-quarter points, Trae became the second NBA player in 25 years to score 15 or more points in three consecutive fourth quarters of playoff games. To make it even more notable, he has done it against a versatile Boston defense that has been one of the NBA's best over the past couple of seasons. 

After losing the first two games of the series, the Hawks have pulled to within 3-2 on the strength of Trae's fourth-quarter finishes. He now has a total of 52 points over his last three fourth quarters. After the first of those outbursts at the end of Game 3, Head Coach Quin Snyder spoke about the factors that have helped Trae.

"If we space properly, we've got a chance. Boston shrinks the floor enough on their own. You can't help them do it," Snyder said. "A big part of that is being willing to shoot. If we turn shots down, the court gets even smaller."

Trae found a willing shooter in longtime running-mate John Collins, who scored 7 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. For the game as a whole, Collins hit a playoff career-high four three-pointers. 

"JC hit some big shots for us," Young said of Collins.

As a team, the Hawks spaced the floor by making 19 of 41 three-point shots (46.3 percent). Bogdan Bogdanovic and De'Andre Hunter each hit 3 threes to keep the floor spread for Trae.

Snyder had a long list of contributors to praise after Game 5, including Trae.

"Trae put us on his back in the fourth quarter, and I think he'd be the first one to tell you that this was about our team – and it was – because we got contributions across the board."

In the midst of his closing 14 consecutive points, the Boston fans expressed their displeasure through an unbecoming, profane chant. Trae continued his comeback work, unfazed.

"When people do that, I think that's just total respect," he said. "They ain't doing that to everybody."

To be the villain once more in Game 7, Trae and the Hawks will need a Game 6 hero. With his fourth-quarter resumé on display thus far in this series, Trae has shown that he is more than cut out for that line of work. 

A villain is just a hometown hero on a business trip.