Trae Young scores career-high 56 in Hawks’ loss to Trail Blazers

Credit: AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

Credit: AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

PORTLAND – Despite a career-high 56 points from Trae Young, the Hawks (16-20) fell to the Trail Blazers 136-131 at Moda Center Monday.

Next up, the Hawks will continue their West Coast road trip and play in Sacramento Wednesday.

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. In some ways, reinforcements arrived for Hawks in this game, and in others, they continue to be quite short-handed due to COVID-19. Six players (Sharife Cooper, Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Onyeka Okongwu and Delon Wright) exited health and safety protocols Saturday and were available to play, but five remain in protocols (Bogdan Bogdanovic, John Collins, Gorgui Dieng, Jalen Johnson and Malik Ellison), alongside head coach Nate McMillan. Plus, they didn’t have Cam Reddish (right ankle sprain) or De’Andre Hunter (right wrist injury recovery) due to injury. Assistant coach Joe Prunty took the reins for Monday’s game.

2. Young couldn’t be stopped, setting a new career-high with the 56 points (17-26 FG, 7-12 from 3-point range, 15-15 FT) and adding 14 assists for a double-double. Young also tied Dominique Wilkins for the longest 25-plus point scoring streak in franchise history (16), and it didn’t take him long to do so, putting up 29 points in the first half (Wilkins posted his streak from Dec. 19, 1985 to Jan. 25, 1986). Young got off to a hot start, accounting for 93.1% of the Hawks offense in the first quarter with 16 points and five assists. His streak of 16 straight 25-plus point performances leads the league this season.

3. Unsurprisingly, this game was offense first (the Trail Blazers are second-to-last in defensive rating at 114.3 and the Hawks are No. 25 at 112.3), but the Hawks desperately needed an elusive stop in the fourth quarter. They got down 13 in the first half but with a 40-point third quarter led by five entering the fourth, overcoming the Blazers’ (14-22) hot 3-point shooting (18-41, or 43.9%). Then, Young sat to start the fourth quarter and they fell behind in his absence, trailing 112-107 when he came back out at the 7:40 mark. Young made two free throws to bring the Hawks within two, 127-125, with 47.1 seconds to play, and was subbed out as Atlanta tried to get a stop, but Danilo Gallinari stayed on the floor and fouled Jusuf Nurkic (21 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) on a layup, with Portland’s lead inching back up to five after Nurkic’s made free throw. The Hawks couldn’t reclaim the lead in the final seconds, ultimately outscored 36-26 in the fourth.

“We’ve got to find a way,” Prunty said of having to rest Young for the start of the fourth, especially with much of the team recently exiting protocols. “We can’t play guys 24 minutes, especially under the circumstances, especially with some of the guys in there coming back from the situation we’re all in. I think at some point I needed to get Trae rest, so those four minutes weren’t the best for us, for sure, and it hurt not having him out there. I think a lot of things defensively in that fourth quarter, or throughout the whole game, didn’t go really well.”

4. The Trail Blazers were without their two main weapons in Damian Lillard (abdominal tendinopathy – injury management) and CJ McCollum (right lung pneumothorax), plus Cody Zeller (health and safety protocols), Brandon Williams (health and safety protocols) and Cameron McGriff (health and safety protocols), though they got back Nurkic when he cleared protocols. Anfernee Simons took on the scoring responsibilities for Portland, putting up a career-high 43 points and tying a career-high with nine 3′s.

5. This loss drops the Hawks to 16-20, four games under .500, and it’s a particularly bad one considering Portland didn’t have Lillard and McCollum. The Hawks have obviously had more than their fair share of roster turmoil, hit hard by COVID-19 the past few weeks and now welcoming some of those players back but still trying to find their footing. That’s in addition the the defensive issues that have plagued them all season long. It prompted Young to compare this season to last, which the Hawks began 14-20 before going on a run to the Eastern Conference finals.

“We’re just trying to fight through it and weather the storm,” Young said. “Last year, we were 14-20 at this point so we’ve made progress, we’re 16-20 but we’ve got to find a way. We’ve got to find a way to turn it back around like we did last year and I think we will. Once we get guys back and guys start to get into their rhythm, we’ll turn it around.”

Stat of the game: 56 (Young’s new career-high in scoring)

Star of the game: Simons (led the Blazers in scoring with 43, adding nine 3′s)

Quotable: “I don’t care about nothing, besides the fact we lost.” (Young on his career night coinciding with a tough loss)