Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young and Co. prove themselves in narrow loss to the Nets

Atlanta Hawks prove their worth in narrow loss to the Brooklyn Nets
Dec 30, 2020; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Cam Reddish (22) goes up for a shot agaisnt Brooklyn Nets center Jarrett Allen (31) and guard Joe Harris (12) during the second half at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks entered Wednesday’s action against the Brooklyn Nets boasting a perfect 3-0 record on the season. This represented the Hawks’ best start since the 2016-17 campaign under then-coach Mike Budenholzer.

The Hawks were more than game against Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Co., leading throughout a vast majority of the first three quarters. Given what we’ve seen from the Nets this season with Durant and Irving teaming up for the first time, this was no small feat.

While the Atlanta Hawks would ultimately fall by the score of 145-141 in one of the most-entertaining games of the young NBA season, this team more than proved its worth.

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Despite loss to Nets, the Atlanta Hawks prove they are legit

Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks are for real.
Dec 30, 2020; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) dribbles the ball while being defended by Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the first half at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

In a game that saw Trae Young fail to hit a three-pointer for only the 23rd time in his career, the rest of Atlanta’s starting lineup stepped up in a big way. That included John Collins going for a season-high 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting while grabbing 10 boards. An improved sophomore in that of Cam Reddish also added 20 points on 5-of-11 shooting.

All the while, Young found other ways to score outside of beyond the three-point line. He joined Collins with a team-high 30 points. This is no small thing given that the third-year guard and MVP candidate had in the past relied too much on the trey to be effective.

Wednesday’s game might have represented somewhat of a changing of the guard when it comes to this. Compared to Stephen Curry heading into the 2018 NBA Draft, Young looked more like the two-time MVP than at any point in his career.

That is to say, moving off the three-point line as a way to help produce in other ways. Young also added six rebounds and 11 assists in a tremendous all-around performance for the Atlanta Hawks. If Young can have these types of games without dominating from beyond the arc, it’s going to loom large for head coach Lloyd Pierce and Co. moving forward.

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Atlanta Hawks’ depth out in full display

Big-time off-season acquisition Danilo Gallinari left early in the first quarter with a sprained ankle. The forward is now likely to miss a substantial amount of time moving forward. Having signed Gallinari to a three-year, $61.4 million deal during the fall, this is the type of injury that would have normally doomed the Atlanta Hawks. That did not happen Wednesday night.

With the veteran out of action, fellow off-season acquisition Bogdan Bogdanovic picked it up off the bench. The sharpshooting wing scored 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting. It’s this type of depth that could very well make the Atlanta Hawks a top-five seed in the Eastern Conference once all is said and done.

Remember, Wednesday’s narrow four-point loss came against a Nets team that boasts two of the most-talented players in the NBA. A super team with multiple future Hall of Famer performers. Giving up 145 points is worrisome. Seeing the Atlanta Hawks outscored by six points in the final stanza is also worrisome.

That’s all fine and dandy. But to be able to stick with a team that saw Durant and Irving combine for 58 points and 14 rebounds is something else. It also tells us a story of a general manager in Travis Schlenk who has aced the team-building philosophy in the current NBA.

These Atlanta Hawks for for real. They are only going to get better. And that’s scary for more prominent Eastern Conference teams moving forward. Take that to the proverbial bank.

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