Trae Young showed he was up to the challenge of the postseason when he hit the game-winner in the closing seconds of his playoff debut.
He’s continued to rise to the occasion since.
Young had 21 points and 14 assists Friday to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 105-94 win over the New York Knicks in Game 3 of their first-round series. In his first home playoff game, Young played with the same swagger he used to silence Madison Square Garden with the winning shot in the opener and gave the Hawks a 2-1 series lead.
“It feels great,” Young said. “This is my first experience at home in the playoffs. I’m looking forward to having a lot more of these because it’s so much fun. There’s so much buzz in the building, a lot of energy. The fans wanted it just as much as we did, so it was great to see.”
Young has been the ringleader of a young, up-and-coming team all season. The playoffs are a different game, but Young has played with poise and hasn’t been overwhelmed by the moment. He’s averaging 27.7 points and 10.3 assists through three games, while shooting 48.4% from the field and 43.8% from 3-point range.
After carrying more of the scoring load in the first two games, Young acted as the facilitator in Game 3, piling up 14 assists to just two turnovers.
“He doesn’t really have a weakness,” said Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan. “He takes what the defense gives him. He does a good job finding the open man when the defense collapses in the paint. When they don’t, he’s attacking and finishing at the rim.”
The third-year All-Star is also embracing the role of showman. He shushed the MSG crowd quiet after his winner in Game 1 and shook off the spitting incident from Game 2 that resulted in a fan being banned from the arena.
After getting past Immanuel Quickley for a bucket during the fourth quarter Friday, Young let the Knicks know Quickley was too small to guard him.
The stellar play and the confidence to go with it belie Young’s tender age. Still only 22, his play so far in his first postseason surely surprises many. Young, of course, isn’t surprised: “I feel like I’ve prepared my whole life for these days, these moments.”
State of the series: Hawks lead 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in Atlanta (1 p.m. ET, ABC).
Celtics 125, Nets 119
Jayson Tatum came through with one of the best performances of his career when Boston was in danger of Brooklyn running away with the series. Tatum poured in a playoff career-high 50 points on 16-of-30 shooting as he and the Celtics finally showed signs of life against the second-seeded Nets. James Harden scored 41 points and Kevin Durant had 39 for Brooklyn, but Kyrie Irving struggled in his return to Boston and was limited to 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
State of the series: Nets lead 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in Boston (7 p.m. ET, TNT).
Clippers 118, Mavericks 108
The Clippers aren’t getting ahead of themselves, but at least they’re back in the series after taking Game 3 in Dallas with a resilient effort. Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points, Paul George had 29 and Los Angeles finally played with some urgency after listless performances in dropping the first two games. Luka Doncic was sensational again with a playoff career-high 44 points on 15-of-28 shooting, but his supporting cast was quiet as no other Mavericks player scored more than 14 points.
State of the series: Mavericks lead 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
Here’s where the rest of the first-round series stand entering Saturday: