How will Hawks respond in Game 4?

Published June 29, 2021, 3:28 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

Down 2-1 with an injured Trae Young, the Atlanta Hawks are at a disadvantage heading into Game 4.

Sean Wright turned out to be the only guy who can stop Trae Young in the playoffs, and he didn’t even try.

Wright, one of the officials in Game 3 between the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks, was standing along the sidelines when his foot was accidentally stepped on by a backtracking Young.

Young, who at that point in the game had 35 points already, tweaked his ankle and went to the locker room. The Hawks were up three points.

When Trae returned to the floor with eight minutes left in the game, he certainly wasn’t the same Trae. He missed three of his four shots, obviously favoring his ankle. 

The unexpected bright spot for the Hawks in Game 3 was the play of rookie Onyeka Okongwu. Matched up against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Okongwu rejected a shot, forced a jump ball, and broke a lob. On the offensive end, he completed an alley-oop and dropped a floater to give the Hawks a 95-88 lead with 7:32 left.

Then, the Bucks went on an insane 25-7 run. Young, Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Danilo Gallinari went cold for the Hawks while Khris Middleton went flaming hot. 

Khris was cash, hitting 3 after 3. He dropped 20 points in the fourth, outscoring the Hawks’ 17. The 38 points from Middleton was a playoff career-high, and it was enough to stop Atlanta from any bad intentions. 

So what happens to the Hawks in Game 4?

Trae is set to undergo an MRI to check the sprain, but he is expected to suit up. Suiting up, however, is a world apart from being icy, as that fourth quarter in Game 3 showed.

If Trae isn’t at a hundred, with Bogdanovic hobbled and Cam Reddish still loading, the Bucks could find themselves on a quick path to the finals. 

Okongwu showed flashes of brilliance, but what the Hawks need are buckets in bunches. They will have to rely on another scoring onslaught from Gallinari and Lou Williams, much like they did in Game 5 versus the Philadelphia 76ers. Huerter will also have to take back his “Red Velvet” nickname for the Hawks to survive a dominant run from Giannis and Khris.

The bad thing about the Hawks is that they’re at a disadvantage now on so many levels, and they will have to fight the biggest fight of their season to prolong it. The good thing is that they’ve been here before.

Trae Young has been big about this team fighting until the very end. They’ll get to prove that in Game 4.