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Trae Young Propels Hawks to Upset Win vs. Tobias Harris, Clippers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2019

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, center, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, left, and forward Mike Scott defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks moved to 2-1 in their current seven-game road trip with a 123-118 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday at Staples Center.

The Clippers saw their three-game winning streak come to an end but are still 1.5 games clear of the Los Angeles Lakers in the race for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

Trae Young (26 points, eight assists and four rebounds), John Collins (22 points and six boards) and Alex Len (19 points and nine rebounds) led the way for the Hawks, while Tobias Harris countered with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Clippers.

           

Trae Young's Big Night a Reminder the Battle vs. Luka Is Far from Over

Young and Luka Doncic will be intricately linked throughout their careers considering the Dallas Mavericks traded the former and a protected 2019 first-round draft pick to the Hawks for the latter.

Young appeared on ESPN's The Jump on Monday and discussed the deal, saying, "I think at the end of the day it worked out for both teams. That's how I look at it. I mean, Luka's doing really well. I feel like I'm doing really well as well."

He also said he believes he will be the better player in the long term but attributed that to his "competitive nature."

Despite Young's comments, Doncic has clearly been the better player to this point. He is the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year and is averaging 20.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game while shooting 35.5 percent from deep.

He has already established himself as the go-to scorer and playmaker for the Mavericks with his ability to read the defense, score off the bounce, facilitate for teammates, split defenders and finish at the rim and has continued the impressive play that landed him the Euroleague's regular-season and Final Four MVP prior to the draft.

Young, on the other hand, entered play an ugly 461st in the league in ESPN's real plus-minus while shooting just 40.2 percent from the field and 29.0 percent from deep with 4.1 turnovers per game.

The three-point struggles have been particularly notable because he drew comparisons to Stephen Curry during his collegiate career at Oklahoma as he consistently launched from well beyond the arc.

Still, it was fair to expect a longer growth process for Young, seeing how he didn't have the extensive experience against other professionals that Doncic had coming into the NBA. He has also shown flashes of his potential of late and continued in Monday's game by pouring in 17 points in the first half alone while slicing through the defense and opening looks for others.

The guard also drilled a critical three-pointer in the final minute to push his team's advantage from six points to nine.

This comes after he scored 30 points in Saturday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, and he has now surpassed the 20-point barrier in five of his last seven outings after doing so just six times the entire season prior to this stretch.

Young appears more comfortable looking for his shot with additional experience and is slashing through the lane with his ball-handling and unleashing floaters with soft touch at the rim. He is also taking advantage of defenders pushing up on his perimeter jumper with his quickness on the first step.

Even when he struggled with five points in Wednesday's win over Chicago Bulls, Young found ways to impact the game with 12 assists and seven boards.

The Oklahoma product is just 20 years old and making drastic strides in his first season of professional experience. Doncic may end up being an All-Star for more than a decade in the league, but the book is far from closed on Young.

He is already flashing signs of improvement on a team that isn't loaded with playmakers around him and figures to get even better as the Hawks accumulate more talent later in their rebuilding process. That, along with his additional experience, will help him challenge Doncic over the course of their careers.

           

What's Next?

The Hawks are at the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, while the Clippers are technically the home team against the Lakers on Thursday.

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