Bradley’s Buzz: The series was over. Trae Young said, ‘Think again’

Game-winner: Trae Young (11) takes the game-winning shot over Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the final seconds of Game 5 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, April 25, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Credit: AP photo/Charles Krupa

Credit: AP photo/Charles Krupa

Game-winner: Trae Young (11) takes the game-winning shot over Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the final seconds of Game 5 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, April 25, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Hawks were one miss from elimination. They were three seconds from an offseason that figured, and perhaps still figures, to bring more change after a winter that saw them dump their architect and head coach. They trailed by 13 with six minutes left in a season that set records for sustained mediocrity.

Game 6 is Thursday night.

Trae Young outscored the mighty Celtics 14-8 over three minutes and 12 seconds. This came after John Collins, seen as a liability because he doesn’t stretch the floor, made a 3-pointer to ignite one of the most stirring comebacks this franchise has known. This came after Boston retook the lead twice in the final 25 seconds, leaving the Hawks to give Young the ball, as they usually do, and say, “Win it for us.”

Saddiq Bey inbounded by flipping the ball into backcourt. Derrick White was brushed by Onyeka Okongwu. Marcus Smart got tangled with De’Andre Hunter. Jalen Brown popped out to challenge Young, who started low but dashed past midcourt.

Young took three dribbles, faked to the right and did a little hop to the left. Brown wasn’t far off, but there’s not much defense for a 30-footer. Young had a clean, if distant, look. He let fly.

If it clangs off the front rim, we’re asking why this was the shot the Hawks chose in the final moments of an elimination game. This morning we’re wondering if it’s the greatest shot in franchise annals.

A team that has inspired no confidence since its out-of-the-blue run to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals was one last miss from a player who’d made only 33.5 percent of his treys this season, his lowest mark since his rookie year. No matter. In this postseason, Young has made 100 percent of 30-footers in the final three seconds of elimination games on the road.

Game 6 is Thursday night.

There should have been no need for anything beyond Tuesday night. The Celtics reestablished their eminence, not that there was much doubt, in a routine Game 4 here. They had only to go home and win again. They led by eight at the half, by 10 after three quarters. The Hawks were working without their second-best player, Dejounte Murray having been suspended by the NBA for brushing an official in the wake of Game 4.

The Celtics were 13-point favorites. With six minutes left, Brown’s 3-pointer put them 13 up. The Hawks were bound where a team that had hung around .500 for three months was destined to go – gone after a tepid Round 1, major decisions to be made.

For five years, everything about this team has been viewed through the prism of Rayford Trae Young. Is he good? Yes. Good enough? Maybe. As good as Luka Doncic? Maybe not, but Luka’s Mavs tanked away the playoffs. Can you win big with Young as your lodestone? What was 2021 if not “winning big”? So why have fortunes plunged since?

Young has the ball a lot. He shoots it a lot. He finished third among NBA players in assists, so he’s not a ball hog. Increasing evidence suggests he’s not the best teammate, either. His mesh with Murray faded after a fortnight. There’s not much chance the Hawks trade Young – they’d never get his worth in return – but they might move half his supporting cast.

Hold that thought. These Hawks have at least one more game in them, maybe more than one. If there’s a Game 7 back in Boston come Sunday, the pressure won’t be on the No. 7 seed. Remember how Philadelphia handled Game 7 two summers ago?

Maybe Young isn’t a great teammate. That doesn’t mean he’s not a great player. The Celtics knew he’d get the ball at the end. He got it and flung it through the hoop. He did the Ice Trae Shiver, having given the C’s the big chill. It was surprising – but also not surprising. He’s Trae Young.

The Hawks need to win twice more to take the series, and you wouldn’t bet on that happening. At 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, you wouldn’t have bet on this still being a series, but here we are.

Ice Trae stole Game 5. Game 6 is Thursday night.

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