Beware of zebras. In a freak accident in which he ran into an official, Trae Young sprained his ankle in Game 3’s loss for the Atlanta Hawks against the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s currently listed as questionable for Game 4 with a bone bruise injury. The Hawks trail the Bucks 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
An MRI on Monday revealed a bone bruise and the team announced that Young is questionable for Game 5. He wants to play, but will the team clear him?
The Hawks are already missing a starter; swingman De’Andre Hunter went down with a knee injury earlier in the playoffs at the start of the second round. The Hawks decided they don’t want to risk his bright future, so they shut the second-year player down for the remainder of the postseason while he underwent surgery to repair his torn meniscus.
With a banged-up Young, who might be out of Game 4 with the injury, the Hawks are +900 underdogs to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Bucks are the favorite at -2000 to win the series and advance to the NBA Finals. The Hawks are +2000 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship, according to a recent update by the Mirage Sports Book in Las Vegas.
Zebra 1, Hawks 0
Young got tripped up by one of the officials at the end of the third quarter of Game 3 in Atlanta. Young missed the start of the fourth quarter when Hawks medical staff took a peek at the injury. He returned midway through the fourth quarter, but the Hawks faltered in crunch time and lost 113-102.
Young scored 32 points in three quarters before the injury, but scored just three points in the fourth quarter to finish with 35 points in the 11-point loss.
“I wanted to go out and at least try,” said Young. “I got out there and hit my first trey, and it really feels like I should be out there and keep fighting, at least. That’s what I tried to do, is keep fighting.”
Young, the Hawks’ primary offensive weapon, averages 32.7 pgg against the Bucks. He averaged 29 ppg against the Philadelphia 76ers in the East semifinals, and averaged 29.2 ppg against the New York Knicks in the first round.
Young torched the Bucks for 48 points in Game 1, which Atlanta won to take a 1-0 series lead. Since then, the Hawks lost two games in a row and fell behind 1-2.
Trae Young heads to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury
Prayers up 🙏 pic.twitter.com/KqbwUuUHMr
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 28, 2021
Who’s the next man up?
If Young doesn’t play, Bojan Bogdanovic will pick up the scoring slack. He was red hot in the last month of the season and provided the Hawks with sharpshooting skills. Bogdanovic injured his knee in the East semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, but he played through the pain even though he’s not 100%. Kevin Huerter, aka Red Velvet, filled in for Hunter as a starter when he went down.
“That’s the head of our snake,” said teammate John Collins. “The last thing I feel like anybody who is a Hawks supporter wants to see is that dude coming down with any sort of knickknack or whatever it is. I hate to see it, and just hoping, praying that he’s going to be OK.”
Lou Williams, who won multiple NBA Sixth Man awards, could also pick up Young’s scoring slack, but he’s most effective coming off the bench, so head coach Nate McMillan is reluctant to start him.
McMillan utilized three guards into the starting lineup, so could also revert to a traditional line with a backcourt of Huerter and Bogdanovic, and then start another forward like Solomon Hill or Danilo Gallinari.
Even if Young plays, who knows how effective he’ll be with the ankle injury. “We’re going to have to adapt,” said Clint Capela. “As long as, hopefully, he can be out there with us, I don’t know if he will or not, but hopefully he is.”
Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.