Trae Young's Last-Second Shot Lifts Hawks Past Alec Burks, Knicks in Game 1 Thriller

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 24, 2021

Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young, center, drives to the basket during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Welcome to your playoff moment, Trae Young.

The Atlanta Hawks are back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign and wasted little time making a statement with a 107-105 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden thanks to their star point guard. His floater with 0.9 seconds remaining gave his team the lead, and Julius Randle missed at the buzzer to end it.

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ICE TRAE! 🥶 pic.twitter.com/aP37k0ER5a

Young took over throughout the fourth quarter of Sunday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series and led the way for the victors, who flipped the script after losing all three regular-season matchups to the Knicks.

An impressive showing from Alec Burks wasn't enough for New York, which made the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season.

Notable Player Stats

  • Trae Young, G, ATL: 32 PTS, 10 AST, 7 REB
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, ATL: 18 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL
  • Alec Burks, G, NYK: 27 PTS, 4 AST, 3 REB
  • Derrick Rose, G, NYK: 17 PTS, 5 AST, 5 REB
  • Julius Randle, F, NYK: 15 PTS, 12 REB, 4 AST, 6-of-23 FG

Trae Young Takes Over on Big Stage

While much of the attention was on the Knicks coming into this series, this was also a major opportunity for Young to solidify himself as one of the most promising young playmakers in the league in his first playoff game.

He did that and more with the game-winner, but he and running mate John Collins also led the way out of the gates.

Young had six assists without a turnover in the first half, and Collins paced all scorers with a combination of outside shooting and moves around the blocks. Throw in Danilo Gallinari playing solid defense on Randle, and Atlanta took a lead into intermission even though the Knicks bench controlled extended stretches.

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ICE. TRAE. pic.twitter.com/e2bvI0LRRC

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CLUTCH. pic.twitter.com/qxooEMTWaR

Atlanta Hawks @ATLHawks

Lou bringing all the energy tonight. pic.twitter.com/cmcTIpOxaQ

Atlanta Hawks @ATLHawks

Trae turned on the jets. pic.twitter.com/DSjldJZjSC

Atlanta Hawks @ATLHawks

JC leads the way with 12 PTS &amp; 5 REB at the half!<br><br>📹 Presented by @Verizon pic.twitter.com/78MtyaW5lF

Atlanta Hawks @ATLHawks

Trae range ❄️ pic.twitter.com/qirntJmHAU

Lou Williams and Kevin Huerter also provided a boost off the bench, and Clint Capela helped control the boards and protect the rim. Still, the Hawks fell behind when Collins went quiet on the offensive end and they scored just 19 points against the Knicks' stingy defense in the third quarter.

Fortunately for them, it didn't matter because of the Young show in the fourth quarter.

The point guard started his run getting to the line and then found Capela on a lob, unleashed a beautiful cross-court pass to Bogdan Bogdanovic for a go-ahead three, hit De'Andre Hunter with a behind-the-back pass for three and then converted an and-1 with less than two minutes left to answer Randle's go-ahead three.

Young then gave Atlanta the lead with two clutch free throws with 28.6 seconds left and answered Derrick Rose's floater with the winning shot.

2nd Unit's Effort Falls Just Short for Knicks with Randle Struggling

The Knicks are one of the feel-good stories of the NBA with head coach Tom Thibodeau immediately turning around the culture and leading them to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs after seven straight losing seasons, but there are still plenty of concerns.

After all, they finished an ugly 22nd in the league in offensive rating, per NBA.com, and were immediately abysmal on that end of the floor while scoring 16 points in the first quarter.

It looked like the Knicks were in serious trouble, but their second unit electrified the crowd and spearheaded a comeback that pulled them within two by halftime. Rose led the way by attacking the basket with a renewed aggressiveness, while Obi Toppin threw down a monster jam and hit a three, Burks provided an immediate scoring spark and Immanuel Quickley found his stroke from deep.

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D-ROSE. CLUTCH. pic.twitter.com/e8dbhyBvua

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Burks. BANG.<br><br>MSG going wild again ‼️ pic.twitter.com/a5lRiQX23w

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Alec Burks is taking over.<br><br>He's scored New York's last three buckets. pic.twitter.com/7KOsRnWBlw

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RJ BARRETT OVER BOGI 😱 pic.twitter.com/r9W8BqNKnB

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MSG IS ROCKING 🗣🗣🗣 pic.twitter.com/df8Hro11A6

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Obi Toppin with authority❗️ @brhoops<br><br>MSG is LIVE pic.twitter.com/Vn7NnmnqUb

The crowd at Madison Square Garden became the main character during the second half, especially when Nerlens Noel swatted a Collins dunk and RJ Barrett threw down a monster slam over Bogdanovic in transition.

The Knicks rode that energy to a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter with Barrett battling for boards, Rose continuing to play like a younger version of himself and Burks adding critical scoring.

Burks continued his brilliance in the fourth with a turnaround jumper on the elbow, a massive three-pointer off a Randle dish and a go-ahead three and basket in the last two minutes to extend New York's lead to three.

Even an average performance from Randle, who is typically the Knicks' leader, would have been enough given the showings from the supporting cast. Yet he shot 6-of-23 from the field, badly missed a potential go-ahead three in the final seconds and never got it going offensively. It will be quite the daunting task for New York to come back and win this series if its star doesn't play better moving forward.

What's Next?

Game 2 of the series is Wednesday in New York.