How the Hawks went from the conference finals to one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams

Bogdan Bogdanovic walked over to Trae Young and tried encouraging the Hawks’ star point guard near the end of the first half. It was the third straight game Atlanta had given up at least a 20-2 run, and Young’s struggles on both ends were at the heart of it. Young finished 1-of-7 from the floor with three turnovers in the first half.

All series long, Young spoke about how he was eventually going to figure out Miami’s defense, but he never did. Young made just 22 baskets in the five games, finished 7-of-38 from 3, had 30 assists and 30 turnovers and the Hawks were eliminated 4-1 by the Heat in the first round of the playoffs Tuesday.

After a missed jumper with under eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter that led to a Victor Oladipo 3 and a Hawks timeout, Lou Williams crouched down and tried encouraging Young.

By then, nothing anyone said was going to get through to him. His psyche was shattered. He picked up a technical foul with five minutes to go as the Hawks were mounting a comeback. A catch-and-shoot 3-point attempt from the corner with just under three minutes to go hit the side of the backboard. A missed free throw with under a minute to go could’ve cut Miami’s lead to two.

Despite all of Young’s struggles, the Hawks still had a chance to send this game to overtime. With 5.2 seconds left on the clock and their season on the line, the Hawks needed a 3 to tie. McMillan said Young, who finished the game 0-of-5 from 3, was the first option on the play he drew up. What makes that interesting is that, while McMillan drew on his dry-erase board, Young wasn’t involved in the huddle. He sat on the bench and stared directly ahead, away from McMillan, as John Collins and Danilo Gallinari blocked his view of the huddle. When they broke as a team, Young was already walking toward the court.

What then transpired was about the worst end-of-game play you’ll see, considering the stakes. For someone who was supposedly the No. 1 option on the play, Young didn’t break free for the ball. He ran into Onyeka Okongwu’s back, then backpedaled away from Delon Wright, who inbounded the ball. When Wright passed it to Gallinari, who was trapped in the corner, Young did not attempt to break toward Gallinari in the hope he’d throw a wraparound pass. Instead, Gallinari tried passing the ball toward the paint when they needed a 3, and the ball was stolen. The Hawks didn’t get a shot off to save their season.

This was a game the Hawks could have stolen on the road and possibly helped find their groove again. Jimmy Butler, the best player in this series, was ruled out just hours before tipoff with right knee inflammation, and Kyle Lowry was already out with his hamstring injury. Instead, the Hawks got a lifeless and uninspiring performance from Young in an elimination game.

“It’s going to be a learning process,” Young said. “Every series I play in is not going to be easy. It’s not going to be perfect. I have to go through some things to learn. I think this is, really, my first big lesson. I have to watch a lot of film from this series and see where I can get better. I just have to be better next year. ”

Author: Lucy Green