Trae Young, Clint Capela guide balanced Hawks offense to big win over Hornets

Trae Young and Clint Capela
Scott Cunningham/NBAG/Getty Images

By KL Chouinard 

Trae Young, Clint Capela and the Hawks manufactured a resounding 132-103 win over the Charlotte Hornets in the Hawks' first game of the Play-In Tournament.

Trae finished with 24 points and 11 assists. Capela had 15 points and 17 rebounds on a night when no other player on the floor from either team grabbed more than 7.

The Hawks swung the game with a 42-point third quarter in which they scored on 20 of their 24 possessions as they adjusted to a Charlotte defense that was hellbent on doing whatever it could to get the ball out of Trae Young's hands. To achieve it, the Hawks needed a full complement of players doing what they usually do and sometimes a bit more.

"You've got to attack it," Trae said of the scheming. "If teams are going to face-guard me or trap me, it's my job to make the right play and then it's my teammates' job to finish and make the aggressive play."

The Hawks needed Capela catching relief-valve passes near the free-throw line and redirecting them to open wing players. They needed Kevin Huerter (13 points, 4 assists), Danilo Gallinari (18 points) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (13 points) moving to space and making the correct shot-or-pass decision to keep Charlotte's defense on edge. And they needed De'Andre Hunter (22 points, 7 rebounds) taking the ball to the rim as the defense rotated back to him. In getting all of it, the Hawks opened up a 33-point lead by the middle of the fourth quarter.

Trae has faced more of such tactics this season, his fourth in the NBA, than he has in previous years. He said that he accepts the attention.

"I have to. I have to embrace it," Trae said of his mindset. "Obviously, it's not always fun because I don't get to play basketball a ton, but it's great for my team. Any time someone can be out there and make two guys guard you, it only opens up the floor for everyone else."

Charlotte finished the regular-season with a scoring average of 115.3 points per game, the NBA's fourth-best mark, but the Hawks' defense held up and limited them to 103 points, thanks in large part to Capela and Hunter. Hunter drew the assignment of guarding Miles Bridges and held him to 12 points. Capela (3 blocks) adjusted to the multiple looks that the Hornets have with both big and small centers, and did his part defending the rim, too.

"(Capela) is the anchor of our defense," Nate McMillan said. "There were really two coverages for Clint tonight. When (Mason) Plumlee was out there, he had to really guard the paint, but when (P.J.) Washington was in the game at the 5, he had to guard the perimeter and three-point ability of Washington."

Clint Capela succeeded on both counts, won the rebounding battle, and earned McMillan's congratulatory bottle of wine for his efforts.

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