Trae Young is unfazed by playoff spotlight

Published June 16, 2021, 3:00 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

Trae Young's remarkable postseason journey continues after he lit up the 76ers with 25 points and 18 dimes in Game 4.

You can call Trae Young a bunch of things. Instigator. New York villain. Reggie Miller 2.0. Foul-bait prince. Disrespectful. Cocky.

Just don’t call him a quitter.

Game 4 was a game that the Atlanta Hawks desperately needed to win. After losing two games in a row, Trae started out Game 4 with the energy of someone who’s not going to dominate.

After missing his first five shots, he sat on the bench and had his right shoulder wrapped heavily as if he had just played three overtime games. He only played 10 minutes.

Ice usually runs in Trae Young’s veins, but for the early part of a must-win game, ice sat on his sore shoulders, Atlanta’s hopes dangerously melting away with it.

The Philadelphia 76ers took advantage. They jumped to an 18-point lead, picking up from where they left off in Game 3. The State Farm Arena fell silent. The first-round win versus the Knicks was a fluke. The Hawks were done. 

Until, you know, they weren’t. 

The second half was a totally different ball game, and whatever happened in the respective locker rooms of the Hawks and the Sixers changed the outcome of Game 4. For the Sixers, something about Joel Embiid happened, something not that great. This is the only explanation for his un-Embiid play in the second half, where he went 0-for-12.

Embiid was a version of himself who didn’t lift a leg and moved gingerly, almost awkwardly. If something was indeed wrong with Embiid, knee-related, it definitely showed at the most crucial part of the game.

With 8.8 seconds left in the game, Hawks up one, Embiid was in a position to win it for the Sixers at point-blank range. Instead, Embiid (who was 4-of-8 in the first half) fumbled what could’ve been the game-winner.

Trae, on the other hand, was the Embiid antithesis. No, he didn’t go 12-of-12 in the second half, but the scary thing about Trae, as a playmaker and a floor leader, is that he didn’t have to. 

Down four, amped up and loud, Trae Young became a version of himself that the Hawks desperately needed. The Trae Young who steps up to the occasion, not minding that he hasn’t been in the playoffs before nor has he played with these big stakes. 

He started the game looking defeated. He finished by either scoring or assisting on his team’s final 15 points. He dropped an outrageous 25 points and dished out 18 assists to help the Hawks tie the series.

How Trae did it was even more outrageous. There was a play where he zoomed past Ben Simmons (not an easy feat), met Embiid and Tobias Harris at the rim, then threw a wraparound pass to John Collins for a corner 3. How that play transpired looked as if it was something Trae has been doing for the past 10 playoff years. 

On a different play, he calmly sank a clutch floater like a seasoned point guard who’s been through many wars. There’s another where he coolly sank two free throws to give the Hawks a three-point lead with six seconds left in the game.

Call him Ice Trae. Call him clutch. With how Trae has been playing so far in the biggest stage of his career so far, call him a playoff veteran.