With the prospect of a 3-0 deficit staring him right in the face, Trae Young took matters into his own hands and wrote the latest chapter of his burgeoning legend.
Young broke loose from the defense of PJ Tucker and hit a floater over Jimmy Butler with 5.5 seconds remaining in the game to give the Atlanta Hawks a 111-110 lead over the Miami Heat. Butler then missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer on the next possession.
After their pulsating win at the State Farm Arena, the Hawks now trail the Heat by a game, 2-1, in their first round playoff series.
That winning shot by Young culminated a game of runs that saw both teams build a double-digit lead. Atlanta led by as much as 11 points in the second quarter before Miami went on a blistering stretch that gave them a 16-point lead midway through the third quarter.
The Heat were clicking on all cylinders and were playing like the team that controlled the first two games of the series once again. They had Atlanta on the ropes, but their fortunes suddenly turned on them. Miami was holding on to a 13-point lead when starting point guard Kyle Lowry left the contest late in the third quarter with a hamstring injury.
The Hawks capitalized and cut the lead to seven by the end of the third quarter. Their run carried over to the final period where their perimeter-oriented line-up composed of Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter, Delon Wright and reserve center Onyeka Okongwu proved to be the winning combination for them. This group pulled them within three, 101-98, after a Bogdanovic three-pointer with less than five minutes remaining in the match.
It was now winning time and Young made it a point to take over as he consistently has over these past two years. He scored 10 of the last 13 points for Atlanta over the last 3:33 of the game, culminated by his game-winning floater. The 6’1 guard went basket-for-basket with the Heat and was unfazed even when they fell behind by a point with less than a minute to go in the game.
The two-time NBA All-Star Young wound up finishing with 24 points, four rebounds, eight assists, a steal, and three turnovers. He only took 14 shots, six less than his regular season average, as he was clearly picking his spots given Miami’s suffocating defense. They previously limited him to one-of-12 shooting in Game 1 of this series then forced him into 10 turnovers in Game 2.
Young’s wait-and-see approach would not have been fruitful without his supporting cast stepping up as they did in Game 3. Six Hawks scored in double figures and all eight players who saw action tallied at least six points.
Bogdanovic was particularly impressive as he continues to be the secondary playmaker that the team needs him to be. The Serbian guard recorded 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block in his typical reserve role.
The flexibility that he provides along with Huerter and Wright are especially crucial for this team. They will have to continue their strong play if this team is to continue punching above its weight against the Heat.
This best-of-seven remains an uphill climb for Atlanta and it may be difficult for them to pull off an upset versus this Miami team that has title aspirations. However, Young has continuously proven over these past 12 months that you can never truly count him out, especially when the lights are at their brightest and the pressure is at its maximum.