What a fourth quarter.
Looking to end their three-game losing streak, the Hawks stepped back onto the State Farm Arena floor Tuesday night and faced off against Gregg Popovich and his San Antonio Spurs. Behind a 38-point fourth quarter explosion, led by none other than Trae Young, the Hawks rallied to seal a 108-100 victory. The win improved the team’s record to 3-3 on the season.
Head Coach Lloyd Pierce praised his team’s effort not only on the offensive end, but the defensive end as well. The Hawks set a season-high in rebounds, collecting 48 as a team.
“To come out, start the game and only give up 21 points in the first quarter and then finish and only give up 22 points in the fourth quarter [shows that] our guys have bought into the defensive side,” Pierce said.
Young made his return from the ankle injury which kept him out of last week’s contest against the Miami Heat. The guard struggled early, as he tried to shoot himself back into rhythm, but poured it on after the halftime break. He finished with a double-double, recording 29 points — 28 of which came in half number two — and 13 assists.
“Trae Young is pretty good,” Pierce said. “I thought he did a great job of really leading our guys down the stretch … It is really encouraging to see because we had a lot of guys step up tonight.”
Young’s creativity was a healthy sight to see. After the team struggled to create quality looks last week, the guard’s playmaking skills were a positive throughout the contest.
“It felt good [to be back on the floor],” Young said. “I’m just glad to be able to play again.”
Filling in for the absent John Collins, who was serving the first of his 25-game suspension, Jabari Parker put together another solid performance. The forward finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and looked to be in sync with Young throughout the contest, as the two combined on numerous occasions.
“Jabari was Jabari,” Pierce said. “I thought he played better in the Miami game, but he did what we needed him to do.”
Trailing 78-70 after three quarters, Young and De’Andre Hunter brought the crowd back to life, draining three straight 3-pointers to give the team a 79-78 lead at the 10 minute mark.
Hunter, along with fellow rookie Cam Reddish, looked much more composed on the evening, as the two recorded career-highs and combined to score 28 points. Coming off of their tough night against the Heat, Pierce felt the two were a big part of the victory.
“I thought their response [to last week’s performance] was the result of the work they put in the last couple of days,” Pierce said. “Cam was great tonight. He gets his shot going, he gets downhill and tries to attack the rim and that’s what we are hoping to see.”
For the rookie out of Duke, the 12-point performance was by far his best game of the early season.
“I had to go out there tonight, be confident, shoot the ball with confidence and it worked out for me,” Reddish said.
When asked about playing inside State Farm Arena, which really found its voice in the fourth quarter, Reddish was at a loss for words.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Reddish said. “[The fans] were phenomenal tonight. It was rocking in there.”
As the fourth quarter blossomed into a shootout, Vince Carter got in on the fun. The veteran knocked down a midrange jumper through contact. The basket gave the team a 91-87 lead with 6:55 to go. While Carter’s impact may not be obvious on the statsheet (he finished Tuesday’s contest with 7 points on 3-for-7 shooting), Pierce said his presence is always felt.
“His impact will never show on that statsheet,” Pierce said. “It’s really about being out there and the guys feeling comfortable when he is out there … that’s what helps us with Vince.”
Young nearly blew the roof off of State Farm Arena a couple minutes later. The guard left LaMarcus Aldridge for dead with a vicious between-the-legs crossover move and set up DeAndre’ Bembry, who threw down a two-handed jam.
Carter knocked down another clutch jumper to make the score 97-90 on the following possession. Popovich called timeout with 4:15 left on the clock, as his team was beginning to capitulate. The Hawks’ fourth quarter run proved to be fatal for the visitors.
‘MVP’ chants rained down from the State Farm Arena faithful, as Young knocked down a pair of free throws with 41.4 seconds left to all but seal the contest. His return to action was triumphant and the fans made their appreciation heard.
The Hawks return to action Wednesday night, as they take on the visiting Chicago Bulls.