The New Orleans Pelicans were once again without their top player Wednesday night. The Atlanta Hawks were not.
And that was the difference in Atlanta's 102-99 win over the Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center that saw the Hawks erase a 16-point first-quarter deficit. While Trae Young continued his excellent start to the 2021-22 season, Zion Williamson remained out of action as he recovers from offseason surgery on his foot.
Brandon Ingram had a chance to give the Pelicans a win in the late stages, but his contested jumper with just over a second remaining was an air ball, and the ball bounced out of bounds to Atlanta.
The Pelicans have tried to pick up the slack in Williamson's absence. After a 1-4 start, however, it's fair to say they've had limited success.
"You can see he is progressing and doing more and more on the floor," head coach Willie Green told reporters after Tuesday's practice, regarding Williamson. "Once he has his latest round of scans, then we’ll have a clearer picture of where we go from here. But he's getting better, he's progressing, he's on the floor now, running, doing a lot more. We'll have an update soon."
Atlanta (3-1) will be happier with their start to the season. It's easier to win when your young superstar is on the court.
Trae Young, ATL: 31 points, seven assists, five rebounds
John Collins, ATL: 16 points, 12 rebounds
De'Andre Hunter, ATL: 13 points
Brandon Ingram, NOP: 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks
Devonte' Graham, NOP: 21 points, six assists
Jonas Valanciunas, NOP: 16 points, 15 rebounds
Trae Young Did Trae Young Things
On a night that saw Cam Reddish finally slow his torrid scoring pace to start the season (18.7 PPG coming into Wednesday), the Hawks really needed Young to carry the offense.
So he did. As usual.
The Hawks have incredible balance, with an impressive collection of role players. But it's fair to argue they don't have a true second star on the roster, meaning on some nights Young is going to have to carry them across the line himself.
Wednesday was one of those nights.
Devonte' Graham Tried to Pick Up the Slack
With Ingram having the rare off night (8-of-21 from the field)—and Williamson and Josh Hart unavailable—the Pelicans desperately needed someone else to step up.
Graham gave it the old college try, torching the Hawks from beyond the arc (5-of-10).
It wasn't enough to get a win over a tough Hawks team. But Graham was at least a bright spot for a Pelicans team that has been short on them to start the year.
New Orleans hosts the Sacramento Kings on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET. The Hawks travel to Washington for a Thursday matchup with the Wizards at 7 p.m. ET.