The Atlanta Hawks’ season hasn’t gone as planned, but when Trae Young heats up, they look much more like the team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago.
Young had one of those explosive performances on Tuesday when he erupted for 45 points in a 117-111 win over the New York Knicks. He’ll look for an encore when the Hawks visit Detroit on Wednesday.
Young had been held to 21 and nine points in his previous two games, both losses. Right before that, he racked up 47 points against Indiana and 46 against Portland in Hawks victories.
“I think the swag and what we were able to do on the court tonight and the energy we had in the huddle, I knew it was just us vs. everybody tonight,” Young said after the win over New York. “I think if we have that type of mindset each and every game, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Young carried the Hawks past the Knicks in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season and thrived again in a playoff-style atmosphere.
“Trae, I think he lives for these moments, this type of challenge,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was questionable to play in the game due to a right quad contusion, scored 32 points against the Knicks. Young’s ability to draw defenders helped Bogdanovic make 11 of 20 field-goal attempts.
“I really like his competitive mindset all the time. He doesn’t take days off,” Bogdanovic said. “He competes every single time in everything.”
However, the Hawks carry a modest .500 record into Detroit.
The Pistons have lost six of their last seven games. They opened a four-game homestand on Monday with a 119-115 loss to Portland.
Rookie of the Year candidate Cade Cunningham had 25 points and seven assists but also committed nine turnovers. His previous high was seven turnovers.
“Almost had a double-double with turnovers. Those are unacceptable,” Cunningham said. “No turnover is acceptable, but that’s beyond that.”
Detroit trailed most of the way against a depleted Trail Blazers squad that was wrapping up a long road trip with three undrafted free agents in the starting lineup. The Pistons rallied from a 23-point deficit to briefly take a fourth-quarter lead but the turnovers — 18 in all — caught up to them.
“I just thought we were dead in the first half,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s one of the rare times we came out not ready, shooting on all cylinders. In this league, you give that team, no matter what their offensive rating is, some confidence, it’s hard to turn it off. We did a little bit in the second half, but it should’ve never got started.”
Detroit sat out five rotation players, including leading scorer Jerami Grant. It still had no excuses for the lethargic start.
“Came out too lax,” Cunningham said. “They jumped on us. They played hard to start the game.”
This is the rubber match of a three-game season series. Atlanta won at home 122-104 on Oct. 25 as Young scored 32 points. On March 7, the Pistons won the second meeting in Detroit 113-110 in overtime behind Cunningham’s 28 points.