This is why Hawks teamed Dejounte Murray with Trae Young

Guard duo beats Celtics

This was what the Hawks had in mind when they made the big trade last summer to team Dejounte Murray with Trae Young. The dynamic duo made shots from the outside. They slithered through gaps to get the rim. They passed to teammates in the right spots at the right times.

It hasn’t looked like that for much of the season. It’s been a challenge Young and Murray, two ball-dominant players, to mix their games together. They found the right formula to beat the Celtics in Game 3 of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series on Friday at State Farm Arena.

Young and Murray combined for 57 points and 14 assists. They made plays at winning time. They lifted the Hawks to victory after the Celtics dominated Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

“We consider ourselves two pretty good guards and we’ve got to be in control of the games when we have leads, especially at home,” Young said. “Just try get a shot every possession and get the right one. I think we did a good job tonight. We’ve got to do it again Sunday.”

It won’t be easy. Boston controlled Young while winning the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Boston. The Celtics surely tweak their plan for Game 4. They are a great defensive team so it surely rankled them that both Young and Murray went off while elevating their teammates.

But maybe there isn’t much Boston can do when both Murray and Young have it going like this. Young scored 32 points with nine assists. Murray had 25 points and five assists. The two guards combined to make 23 of 43 shots, including 4 of 12 3-point tries and 7 of 7 free-throw attempts.

“I don’t consider this our best game together,” Young said. “I think this is definitely one of them. It came at the right time that we needed it.”

Atlanta Hawks' guard Dejounte Murray (5) and guard Trae Young (11) celebrate after scoring during the second half in Game 3. (Hyosub Shin /


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The Hawks led by 12 points late in the third quarter. After the Celtics rallied to get the deficit to 118-116 with three minutes left, Murray and Young turned them back. The two guards were talking to one another and trying to figure things out, Hawks coach Quin Snyder said.

“If they’re on the same page, people will play off them,” Snyder said. “Guys feed off that.”

The Hawks stayed in the game by weathering Boston’s early 3-point barrage. The Celtics made nine 3-pointers in the first quarter. That’s a franchise playoff record for a period. The Hawks kept pace by scoring 20 points in the paint. They trailed just 37-33 after a quarter.

The Hawks took the lead when their bench players started making 3′s, too. Saddiq Bey, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Jalen Johnson combined to make 7 of 7 3-point attempts in the first half. Those two plus backup center Onyeka Okongwu made 13 of 14 shots from the field before halftime.

The Hawks led 74-67 at the break, setting a playoff franchise record for points in a half. It took the Celtics less than four minutes to tie the game after the break. Young had two bad passes and Murray one during that stretch. Each missed pull-up 3-point tries. The Hawks stopped attacking the basket.

The lull was temporary. Atlanta’s lead was 100-93 at the end of the third period. The Hawks fell behind after three minutes in Game 1 and trailed by 30 points at halftime. They never led after the first quarter in Game 2. Now, finally, the Hawks had a chance to win.

The Celtics got within a point of the lead with an 11-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. The Hawks turned the ball over on five of their first eight possessions of the final period. They were fading, but Young and Murray wouldn’t let this game get away.

Young scored 15 points in the fourth quarter. When Boston got within 118-116, he made a step-back 3-pointer over a good challenge by Al Horford. Murray had seven points in the final period. He made a corner 3-pointer against tight defense by Derrick White for a 124-118 lead with 1:40 to go.

Young got past White for a floater that pushed Atlanta’s lead to 126-121 with 45 seconds to play. Then he made four free throws to put the Celtics away. Young ended a long streak of bad playoff performances, so the Celtics finally had to deal with both Atlanta guards playing well.

Murray and Young outplayed Boston’s star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum scored 29 points with 10 rebounds and five assists but was limited to five points in the fourth quarter. Brown scored just two points in the final period with no assists and a turnover.

Murray noted that Tatum and Brown had growing pains playing together until they broke through to make the NBA finals last year.

“I look at Jayson and Jalen a lot, two guys who was going through a lot, just not working out and just to get to where they’re at the level they’re at (now),” Murray said.

One good playoff game together obviously doesn’t mean Murray and Young are on their way to being like Tatum and Brown. The Boston tandem is 5-2 in playoff series since taking over as the leads after Kyrie Irving left Boston. Tatum’s size and skill allow him to take over games in ways that Young and Murray can’t.

But Young and Murray were the better duo on Friday. The Hawks avoided a 3-0 deficit in the series. No NBA team has ever climbed out of that hole. Only 20 of 282 teams to trail 2-0 have come back to win the series. The Hawks seemingly had no chance of doing it after two games in Boston.

They have a little more hope after Young and Murray finally had the kind of game the Hawks envisioned when they put them together.