In his first time on stage, Trae Young was already the star of the show.
And just like an actor on nearby Broadway, he closed his impressive debut performance with a bow, after making a long 3-pointer in the final minute.
“Leading up to this game, I know where we are, I know there’s a bunch of shows around this city and I know what they do when the show is over,” Young said.
Young closed it with 36 points and nine assists, and the Atlanta Hawks beat the New York Knicks 103-89 on Wednesday night in Game 5.
Clint Capela backed up his confident words from a day earlier with 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks, who will play the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in their first trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals since 2016. That series begins Sunday.
Young never looked like a playoff rookie, hitting the winning shot with 0.9 seconds left in the opener and averaging 29.2 points and 9.8 assists.
The profane chants toward the point guard continued Wednesday, though less frequently than in Games 1 or 2. Young was never rattled by the fans, one of whom was banned after spitting on Young in Game 2.
Now he has silenced them for the summer.
“I texted him before the playoffs started and told him he’s built for this time of the season with the confidence he brings to the floor, his skill level for scoring the basketball and creating opportunities,” Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan said. “It’s really tough to game plan against him.”
Julius Randle had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks to finish his disappointing first postseason. The winner of the NBA’s Most Improved Player award shot 8 for 21 from the field and finished 28 for 94 (29.8%) in the series.
Randle said he was proud of the team the Knicks were.
“It’s tough for me to process that right now the way things ended, but we’ll be back,” he said.
Randle led the Knicks to a 41-31 record in their first season under Tom Thibodeau, with a pair of 40-point games during a three-game season sweep of Atlanta. But the Hawks were by far the better team in this series, with only a poor second half of Game 2 keeping them from a sweep.
That continued a strong surge for the Hawks, who went 27-11 after March 1, when Lloyd Pierce was fired and replaced by McMillan.
They won the two games in Atlanta easily and returned to New York confident they could close it out. Capela downplayed the Knicks’ attempts to play physically, saying the Hawks could do that and also win the games.
Both coaches shrugged off the tougher talk but it seemed clear the players’ emotions had risen. Words were exchanged after Taj Gibson’s flagrant foul on De’Andre Hunter in the second quarter, and players had to be separated at halftime after the Knicks’ Nerlens Noel and Atlanta’s Solomon Hill bumped into each other as the teams were exiting the floor.
Noel, Randle and Hill were given technical fouls. Young made a free throw on one of them before play began in the third quarter to give Atlanta a six-point lead.
Randle then made a 3-pointer to cut it to 53-50, but the Knicks would make only four more baskets the rest of the quarter. Nine straight points by the Hawks made it 62-50 when Bogdan Bogdanovic made a 3-pointer, snapping Atlanta’s 3 for 20 start behind the arc.
The margin remained at 12 after three, when Randle had seven field goals but seven turnovers at that point.
The Knicks couldn’t make much dent in the final quarter, with even Spike Lee giving up and leaving with a little more than 3 minutes to go, and went weakly in their first postseason since 2013.
“It’s a great group of guys, top to bottom, and there’s as can be expected the disappointment of losing a playoff series, but also I think they know that they have given everything that they have,” Thibodeau said. “Once you do that, that’s all you can do.”
Hawks: Hunter scored 15 points and John Collins had 13.
Knicks: RJ Barrett scored 17 points. … Derrick Rose, moved into the starting lineup during the series, was just 3 for 11 for six points.
MARV AT MSG
Marv Albert called the game for TNT, his first time working on site since the All-Star Game and last at Madison Square Garden for the longtime Knicks broadcaster who is retiring after the Eastern Conference finals. Albert began calling Knicks games on the radio in 1967 and began doing their games on TV for MSG Network in 1986 until he and the organization parted in 2004.
COACH K’S CREW
Both coaches in the series were assistants on the U.S. Olympic team under Mike Krzyzewski, who will coach his final season with Duke in 2021-22.
McMillan was on Krzyzewski’s staff when the Americans won gold in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Thibodeau was on the staff when the U.S. won a third straight gold in 2016.
“Obviously, legendary. Not only an all-time great, maybe the greatest, but he’s an even better person,” Thibodeau said. “He’s just an amazing leader, an amazing person and to do it as well as he’s done it as long as he’s done it, it just speaks volumes as to who he is.”