The fortunes of the Atlanta Hawks mainly lie with Trae Young, and rightly so, but it has made the Hawks as predictable as the rising and setting of the sun. It’s even gotten to the point that the team Twitter page more often than not will post videos like this:
Young is clearly the quarterback of the Atlanta offense, and he nearly led them to the NBA Finals last season. As of late, however, the two-time All-Star doing almost everything has, on balance, made things easier for his opponents rather than his teammates.
Such was the case when the Hawks took on the surging Boston Celtics. Things were initially looking up for Atlanta, as they held a 55-45 halftime lead over the Celtics. Boston then used a 17-6 run to take a 62-61 they wouldn’t relinquish after they got the Hawks into the penalty early, which in turn got Jayson Tatum’s offense going as well.
Young led Atlanta with 30 points, 10 assists, and two steals, but Bodgan Bogdanovic (26 points) and De’Andre Hunter (10 points) were the only other Hawks in double figures. They pretty much made up most of the Atlanta offense in the 105-95 loss, but the three combined for 35.5 percent shooting from the field, a shade lower than the 36.6 percent the entire team shot in the game.
Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic took 46 of the Hawks’ 93 shot attempts against the Celtics and two players taking up nearly half of the entire team’s shots only works when they come up with video-game performances.
Through 56 games, Atlanta allows their opponents to score as many points as they do per game (111.7). In fact, both the Hawks and their opponents have the same field goal percentage (46.6 percent) in that same span of games. The difference comes in where they get their points, as Atlanta’s opponents shoot much better from point-blank and in the midrange. Opponents have been able to get higher-percentage shots and the Hawks have had to engage in shootouts against opposing teams just to earn wins this season. Shots come and go, and thus, it’s not surprising that they followed a seven-game winning streak earlier in the year by losing five of the next seven games.
Having no John Collins (16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 50 games) against Boston and for at least the next two games due to a right foot strain won’t make things easier for Atlanta, not only because Young will have to shoulder the load, but also because of their overall inconsistency at the forward positions. Danilo Gallinari had more missed shots (6) than points (5) starting in place of Collins and his zero rebounds and free throw attempts stood out.
The presence of Clint Capela may not be enough to offset the loss of Collins as the rebounds he grabs and allows his teammates to get lead to extra possessions. Currently, the Hawks allow their opponents to grab 43.7 rebounds per game, which is 10th in the league. Doing so makes up for their 44.5 rebounds per game (19th in the NBA), a number that was easily eclipsed by Boston (54) earlier today.
With two games left before the All-Star break, Atlanta currently holds a half-game lead over the Washington Wizards for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference. Their upcoming game against the Cleveland Cavaliers should present some challenges, while the matchup against the Orlando Magic should help them gain momentum heading into the midseason break. It goes without saying that the long layoff that comes with the All-Star festivities will be greatly appreciated by the Hawks as they will face the Chicago Bulls once the games resume.
Big games from Trae Young have become the norm for the Atlanta Hawks that opposing teams have learned to live with and even win despite it. Any hopes of replicating or even surpassing last season’s Eastern Conference Finals run lie in how the rest of the team supports Young, whether that be on offense or in defense. As talented as Ice Trae may be, the Hawks as a whole are greater than the sum of their parts.