Hawks vs. Hornets score takeaway: Atlanta advance to face Cleveland for No. 8 seed after dominating win

The Atlanta Hawks are poised to secure a spot in the 2022 NBA Playoffs after outscoring the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night at State Farm Arena by a score of 132-103. The Hawks were ahead for, essentially, the entire night before they really opened up the game in the third quarter and created a deficit the Hornets simply couldn’t overcome.

With Trae Young leading the charge on the Hawks’ offensive side with 24 points and 11 assists, Atlanta received contributions up and down their roster as six players, total, scored in double figures in the win. LaMelo Ball finished with a team-high 24 points for the Hornets but, rather inefficiently, it took him 25 shot attempts to get there.

Now we’ll see which team can win on Friday night when the Hawks and Cavaliers meet for the right to play the Miami Heat. Here are the three biggest takeaways from tonight’s game.

1. Trae Young is proof against the defense

Trae Young shot 3 of 13 from the field in the first half. It was the kind of performance that couldn’t be understood through a box score. Even though Young’s shots continued to miss, the Hawks continued to score. They had 60 in the first half precisely because of all the extra attention Charlotte gave Young. They caught him in half court and trapped him off screens, but because Young is such a dynamic passer and can shoot from so far behind the line, all of those tactics have been to open things up for his teammates. . They delivered with a stellar half.

So the Hornets calmed down a bit in the second, changing more screens. Young roasted the poor bigs that Charlotte put on the floor for him to hunt from there, this time beating them as much as a scorer as a passer. The Hawks scored 132 points in the game and won Young’s minutes by 27 points.

That’s the level Young has risen to in big games. The Knicks, Bucks and Sixers saw it in last year’s playoffs. There’s no defense you can use against him that won’t consistently lead to a good offense for the Hawks. Drop and he’ll hit you with float after float. Go under and it will come up for the 3s logo. Play too aggressively and he’ll rack up free throws. Even Philadelphia, with Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle throwing more conventional defenses at him, couldn’t stop him outright.

This is the highest level of offense in the playoffs, the one reserved for basketball’s best shot-makers. At any given time, there are usually only three or four basketball players who are thus defense-proof. LeBron James and James Harden had been there for years. Stephen Curry could still be. Luka Doncic and Trae Young have reached this point now and should stay there for a while. If the Hawks can give Young the right teammates, there’s no reason they can’t score like this for years.

2. LaMelo LaBusts

A year ago, LaMelo Ball shot 4 of 14 in a blistering loss to the Pacers. Tonight he shot 7 of 25 in a blistering loss to the Hawks. Now this is a sample of two games. It’s not particularly significant in the grand scheme of things, and as the Hornets progress and figure out the roster around him, he’s going to have a lot more big games to prove himself. situations.

But what we can say much more definitively is that Ball lacks the undeniable de Young. He’s not the kind of player who can look at any defense an opponent throws at him and immediately have a counter. He’s an All-Star who scored in single digits 16 times in his two NBA seasons. He’s obviously not near his prime, but he’s not the kind of singular creator that most teams tend to favor among their star point guards. He’s more of a flow player, a transitional killer who can function in an offense but has yet to figure out how to own it like Young does.

There’s no reason to believe he can’t. It’s only his second season, after all, and while he’s not the smooth pick-and-roll operator that Young is, he shares the incredible passing vision and field of Young’s shot. The pieces are there, but like his brother he is an inconsistent finisher and mid-range operator who prefers to keep the ball moving. It’s good in the regular season. It’s something he’ll have to work on for the playoffs if he wants to be the kind of player who can lead his team on a deep run.

3. Will the Hornets please find a center?

At this point, we should all feel bad for James Borrego. This man has been Rube Goldberg shoving his way through half-decent defenses for years with nothing but 6-7 crosses and selfless guards, and eventually that approach has seemingly run its course. Mason Plumlee and Montrezl Harrell have been disappointing centers this year, but during Borrego’s entire tenure, the Hornets failed to give him a single adequate rim protector.

It killed them in this game as it has for most of the season. The Hawks had easy dribble penetration for most of the first half, and they used it to get the ball to the shooters. When the Hornets stayed home on those shooters in the second half, the Hawks got all the layups and dunks they wanted. It’s avoidable with the right big man. It was time for the Hornets to go out and find one.