Trae Young’s 48 points lift Hawks over Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of East Finals

Illustration by Ariel Walter | The Signal

Some people watching Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference Finals wouldn’t have known that it was Trae Young’s first playoff run. He led the Atlanta Hawks to a 116-113 win over the Bucks in Milwaukee with a career-high 48 points and 11 assists––numbers only LeBron James and late Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant previously recorded at a young age. Young was responsible for 72 Hawks’ points, roughly 62% of the team’s total.

“I think he has the skill these top players have in the league. He really doesn’t have any weaknesses on the offensive floor,” Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said. “He can shoot from deep, has a mid-range game, and can get his teammates the ball. Good players don’t allow coverages to take them out of their game; they find a way.”

John Collins and Clint Capela combined for 34 of the teams 51 rebounds, with Collins adding 23 points and Capela pitching in 12 points and a playoff career-high 19 rebounds. McMillan 

Kevin Huerter added 13 points and had a great stretch in the second and third quarter that helped fuel a 17-7 second-quarter run to get Atlanta going offensively. 

Down seven with 3:42 to go, the Hawks needed to play their best basketball of the playoffs. The Bucks found success inside all game long with 70 points in the paint. But, Atlanta made it a bit more difficult for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks to create baskets.

“We had to try to make them kick it out. We needed to get stops to give us a chance offensively, and we did that enough down the stretch,” Huerter said. “We needed to protect the paint at the end of the game, and, for the most part, we did it.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists with John Collins as his primary matchup. Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists while Khris Middleton struggled with 15 points on 23 shots. 

The Hawks are brewing with confidence and have won all three Game 1s on the road this postseason. The team is also 13-2 in games decided by five or fewer points. It’s quite a feat for a team so inexperienced in the big moments. Only Capela, Tony Snell and Solomon Hill have Conference Finals experience, but none have ever seen an NBA Finals. 

The Hawks know they have a special group, even as people continue to doubt them across each playoff series they advance in. They entered Wednesday night’s game as eight-point underdogs. Young, already the leader of one of the NBA’s most successful franchises this season, continues to leave everyone, including his teammates, in awe on a nightly basis.

Young and Collins flowed well against the Bucks’ top-tier defense, headlined by two highlight-reel-worthy plays in the second half.

The first, an alley-oop off the glass to Collins, who finished through traffic with 4:22 left in the third quarter to put the Hawks up 77-73. Two minutes later, with 2:20 left in the quarter, Collins set two screens for Young, who put the moves on Holiday before a shimmy and three-pointer to extend the Hawks lead

The moment left Capela in awe.

“It gets our bench hype. It gets [those on the court] hype. It’s crazy, man. It’s just crazy. Even the pass off the backboard, that’s just crazy. That’s crazy,” Capela said. “I’ve played with a lot of good players (and) I’ve never seen that, especially on this stage. It’s crazy to see.”

Friday’s Game 2 will tip at 8:30 p.m. EST at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.