Hawks bizarre Trae Young strategy pays off for Knicks – New York Post

The Knicks did not exactly stop Trae Young as they staged a comeback and evened their best-of-seven playoff series. They have Hawks coach Nate McMillan to thank for keeping the speedster point guard under wraps Wednesday night far more effectively than any defense thrown at him.

Young was doing his thing, killing the Knicks with 20 points in the first half, quieting another raucous Garden crowd slinging verbal epithets his way. Young was a one-man wrecking crew, hitting 7 of 11 shots from the floor — four of five from 3-point range — to steer his team to a 57-44 lead on the listless Knicks.

So, what did the Knicks do differently in the second half, as Young scored just 10 points to finish with 30 and was not much of a factor in the closing minutes, as the Knicks took control in their 101-92 victory? Young could not score from the bench, as McMillan kept his star out of the game late in the third quarter and on into the fourth quarter, a crucial stretch when the Knicks took the lead and never let it go.

“Trae played 35 minutes, that’s a lot of minutes,’’ McMillan said. “That’s our normal rotation.’’

Using the normal rotation with a chance to take a 2-0 series lead, with the lead dwindling, is questionable. McMillan also kept Young’s backcourt mate, Bogdan Bogdanovic, on the bench as the Knicks mounted their comeback.

Trae Young
Trae Young
NBAE via Getty Images

“Of course I wanted to be in there,’’ Young said. “But I trust Mac and his rotations.’’

The Garden crowd again hit Young with obscene verbal epithets, and added a new one, chanting “Trae is balding.’’ That did not deter him in the first half.

There is no doubt the 22-year old heard the roar of the hostile crowd and, rather than shrink from it, he made like a not-so-silent assassin in the way he devastated the vaunted Knicks’ defense — shooting over it, driving into it and passing around it.

There was, if not a warning, certainly a cautionary tale told to Young prior to Game 2. He buried the Knicks with his verve and swerve as the Hawks won the opener in the final seconds, courtesy of a Young floater. Then he shushed the Garden crowd, lifting his finger to his lips.

“If you want to talk s–t, talk s–t,’’ Derrick Rose said prior to Game 2. “It’s all right. But next game, it’s gonna be tougher and that environment is gonna create a great atmosphere for some great basketball.’’

Young hit the first basket of the game, a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but he did not force a thing. He finished the first quarter with five points and three assists, content to set things up for the Hawks as they built a 27-20 lead. He got some rest on the bench and hit the court again with 8:43 remaining in the second quarter.

He went off in the second quarter.

He hit a 3. He hit two free throws then pulled up from long range for another 3. He scored on a breakaway. When center Nerlens Noel switched out on Young on the perimeter, Young sensed the mismatch, faked a drive and nailed a step-back jumper, with the 6-foot-11 Noel back-pedaling. That made it 54-41. Young drilled another 3-pointer late to give him 15 points in the second quarter and 20 for the first half.

Then McMillan put his star on the bench and left him there too long.

“I think they wore us down in the second half and we really didn’t have anything,’’ McMillan said. “We got a little gassed. We had to get those guys a little breather.’’

It was quite a breather.

“I don’t know if it was fatigue or them just making plays,’’ Young said. “I felt fine. Give them credit for making tough shots.’’