ATLANTA – As Atlanta hawks” the season ended with a 118-107 loss to Milwaukee dollars in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, Bring young people left the field after the final bell rang and shouted a message to the fans crammed into the tunnel next to the Atlanta bench at State Farm Arena:
“We will return.”
It was a final challenge message from Young, one of the stars of these playoffs, after finishing with 14 points on a 4-for-17 shot in 40 minutes on Saturday night when he returned to action after missing the Games 4 and 5 with a bone contusion on the right foot and a sprained right ankle.
“I feel like we’ll be back, and I meant it with all my heart,” Young said.
Young, who had done no field work other than testing his foot to try and play before each of the last three games, naturally looked breathless and lacked his usual glow. But with Atlanta facing elimination with another loss, he did his best to try and extend his team’s season with another game.
“The message [to the team] had no regrets, ”Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We don’t want any regrets after this game tonight, and we’re leaving everything we have on the pitch.
“This is what I saw of Trae. The fact that he hadn’t done anything on the ground since the injury was the first time he had done something live on the ground, so he been gassed.
“That was the message. No regrets at the end of this game. Empty your tank. I thought this group, they did.”
Young, who sustained the injuries when he inadvertently stepped on referee Sean Wright’s foot at the end of the third quarter of Game 3, said the bone bruise was located on her heel and she l ‘had hit every time he tried to push it, either to pull a float or attack the rim.
But after testing his foot before Game 6 – a process he went through before Game 4 and 5 before deciding he couldn’t play – Young felt well enough to give it a go.
Still, Young was a non-factor for most of the first half. He made his first bucket on a float with 4 minutes, 56 seconds to go in the first. He then made a strong move through the defense to the rim for an easy layup after being hit with a technique halfway through the second for saying too much to veteran official Eric Lewis.
He only went 2-for-8 overall for five points in the first half, along with two assists and three turnovers. A trend that continued in the second half.
“For me not being able to be there for my team for two games and then tonight just wanting to fight and trying to fight as much as I can and trying to be there for my team is really frustrating, not being healthy and not being able to give myself 100 percent, ”Young said.
In the end, Young’s teammates didn’t help much either. As a team, Atlanta only shot 41.3 percent from the field. Apart from a mind-blowing shooting performance from the second year Cam Reddish, who scored 21 points on a 6 for 7 3-point shot, the rest of the Hawks were 6 for 26 in depth.
A cold streak early in the third quarter, in particular, proved fatal for the Hawks, as the Bucks started a 13-2 run to start the second half to open up a 15-point lead.
Atlanta spent the rest of the game trying to take that lead. The Hawks managed to come close to six with 3:41 remaining on a dunk by the Hawks’ center Clint Chapel. But Milwaukee responded with a Jrue Holidays layup, a defensive save and a loose ball foul on the Hawks that resulted in two Khris Middleton free throws, ending any chance for Atlanta to keep their season alive.
A magical playoff run that saw the Hawks take down two top-ranked opponents – the fourth seed New York Knicks out of five and seeded Philadelphia 76ers in seven – before finally falling to Milwaukee in six games, finally ended.
“It’s a feeling I’ve never really felt before,” said the Hawks forward John collins, who, like many Hawks, was making his first trip to the playoffs. “Obviously, feeling like we had a real chance to win this Larry O’Brien trophy, to not be successful and to understand all the positive things that we have done this year to help us get there, and all the things that I have I haven’t done or felt like I could have done harder or been locked in or more focused on me too are invading my mind.
“So it’s just a wave of emotions that I don’t necessarily understand how to deal with yet, but I can tell you I’m proud of this group and the way we’ve fought and competed so far.”
Just four months ago, Atlanta sacked coach Lloyd Pierce, the team sitting 11th in the East and posting a 14-20 record. Not only did the Hawks immediately turn things around under McMillan, going 27-11 to finish the regular season, they then stormed the first two rounds of the playoffs before reaching the conference finals for the second time in just 50 years.
Along the way, Young has gone from being a player who entered those playoffs with questions regarding his ability to raise his level of playoff play, as well as his ability to deal with being targeted at times. on offense and defense, whoever survived the crucible not only was the NBA playoffs, but they thrived there.
“I think he’s built for this time of the season,” said McMillan. “You need a player who can create and put the ball in the basket, but create opportunities for his teammates, who has that confidence that he’s shown on the pitch. He’s fearless. He doesn’t back down to anyone or anyone or anything. no type Teams put bigger, more physical players on him. Teams overtook him. They knocked him down. They did a lot of things that you do to good players like that.
“This kid keeps taking that and finding ways to be productive. I’ve seen a lot of good players and great players in this league, and I think he has that potential. I really think he has. that potential. He gives his all when he’s on the pitch. This guy is determined to win. He’s committed to this team. He has a talent, a special talent that you need to be successful in this time of the year. ‘year. “
The Hawks, meanwhile, are entering the offseason with several questions, including the future of McMillan, who is almost certain to receive a long-term extension and remove the interim title tag.
“I don’t see an interim on his label here soon,” Young said with a smile, echoing comments from all of the players who spoke after the game. “In my mind, I don’t think that will be the case for long. “
Beyond that, Atlanta must determine the long-term future of Collins, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, and Young and Kevin huerter – who has also impressed in these playoffs – are both set for possible contract extensions this offseason.
But with the end of this superb playoff series, the Hawks are convinced that Atlanta’s future is very bright.
“It’s tough,” Young said of his playoff victory. “It’s not easy. It’s all about experience. You have to go through it to – I mean, you really have to go through it. You see in the West, you see. [Chris Paul] has never made the final in 16 years.
“It’s tough. It’s not easy. You really have to go through it. I think what he’s done and what he’s been through has really helped the Suns team, and what this team is. lived with the Bucks, they went I know that feeling, they didn’t want to go home anymore. I think for us, we have the same feeling now, and it’s the same. “