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Trae Young makes anticipated MSG return as Hawks battle Knicks

Sportsnaut
Mar 20, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) brings the ball up the court against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks will aim to avert a season sweep by the Knicks on Tuesday when they return to Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Knicks have gotten the better of the Hawks in both encounters in Atlanta as well as a clash on Christmas Day in New York. Young, however, was one of nine Hawks in the NBA’s health and safety protocol for the holiday matchup, sparing him a festive greeting from the MSG faithful.

Young has become Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of New York fans after he took a bow near the conclusion of the Hawks’ first-round, series-clinching victory over the Knicks last spring. He even played the role of the heel during a WWE event at MSG in September.

Young, who averages team-best totals in points (27.9) and assists (9.5), collected 21 and 10, respectively, in Atlanta’s 117-112 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. Young, however, committed five of his team-high seven turnovers in the first quarter to help the Pelicans run out to a sizable lead.

“I did a bad job turning the ball over in the first quarter; they got off to a big lead, 35-18,” Young said, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We didn’t score, I didn’t give us a chance to really score in the first quarter, and we fought hard to get ourselves back in the game, but it was just too much to overcome.”

Young was listed as questionable before the game with an ailing left quadriceps after sitting out Friday’s 120-105 win versus the Memphis Grizzlies.

Former Knick Danilo Gallinari started in place of John Collins (finger, foot injuries) on Sunday and had a season-high 27 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists.

Gallinari was at a loss as to why the intensity wavers for the Hawks, who have lost two of their last three contests following a three-game winning streak.

“I don’t know. If I had the answer, we would have fixed it already. I think that mentally, we’ve got to be tougher. All of us,” he said. “… I think the ups and downs are more mental than anything else.”

The Knicks know about ups and downs all too well, in particular on their current four-game homestand. They cruised to a convincing victory over Portland on Wednesday and eked out a win over Washington two nights later before falling short versus Utah on Sunday.

Julius Randle struggled mightily by making just 6 of 21 shots in the 108-93 setback to the Jazz. He also struggled to find the words for why the team was flat in the defeat.

“Wear and tear of the season from game to game. I’m not really sure,” said Randle, who averages team-best totals in points (20.3), rebounds (10.0) and assists (5.1). “Usually we’re (a) high-energy team. For some reason we weren’t today.”

Randle collected 25 points and 12 rebounds in the Christmas Day win over Atlanta.

The Knicks, however, trail the 10th-place Hawks by five games with 11 to play.

–Field Level Media