ATLANTA — Atlanta Hawks star guard Trae Young said his sprained right ankle was sore and hurting after Sunday’s 113-102 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, adding that it “hopefully” feels better for Game 4 on Tuesday night.
“It’s sore right now,” said Young, who finished with 35 points — but only three in the fourth — and four assists in 39 minutes in Sunday’s loss, and added he’s going to get an MRI on the ankle Monday morning. “It’s hurting, it’s frustrating … it’s hurting a little bit and it’s sore.
“I got some treatment on it. I’m going to go get some more in the morning. That’s all I can do right now, is to get treatment.”
The play on which Young suffered the injury came with 36 seconds to go in the third quarter, when Young — after having the ball stolen from him by Jrue Holiday — inadvertently stepped on the right foot of referee Sean Wright, who was standing out of bounds, and fell to the ground.
Young, who wasn’t walking with a noticeable limp when he came in and out of the postgame news conference inside State Farm Arena, eventually got to his feet and walked, with a slight limp, to the locker room, returning early in the fourth with the Hawks holding a 93-88 lead with 8:44 remaining. From there, though, it was all Milwaukee, as the Bucks closed the game with a 25-9 run — thanks to Khris Middleton outscoring the entire Hawks team (20-17) by himself in the fourth quarter — to retake control of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals two games to one.
Young played 7:53 in the fourth quarter, finishing with 3 points on 1-for-4 shooting, and admitted he struggled to push off the way he normally does, pointing out one pass in particular to Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic where he was in pain coming back down the court after driving in and trying to plant on that right foot.
“Really just my blow-by speed,” Young said. “I mean, that’s a big part of my game, is my ability just to blow by anybody. And when you’re on the left side and you’re trying to blow by, you got to use your right foot.”
Afterward, Hawks coach Nate McMillan admitted Young was “sore” when he checked back into the game, and added that once he subbed Young out of the game with 51.1 seconds to go — and with the Bucks in firm control, leading by 10 — he wouldn’t be putting his star guard back in.
“When he came back to the bench, I was told that he was available,” McMillan said. “Once he got out there, and I saw he wasn’t moving well, when I took him out for the last few seconds, he couldn’t go back. I was basically looking to rotate him offense/defense, and he just couldn’t go back.”
Up until the moment Young stepped on Wright’s ankle, he’d been having his way with the Bucks. After struggling in Game 2, finishing with 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting to go with nine turnovers in a blowout Bucks victory, he had scored 32 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 5-for-11 from 3-point range and 14 points in the first quarter alone.
“Definitely,” he said, when asked if his hot start added any frustration to his state after the game. “Especially because we had the lead and we were doing good. We had a lot of momentum on our side.
“Just a freaky bad accident, and it just happens like that.”
Young, who said he didn’t speak to Wright about the incident, and said sarcastically he’ll now have to have “eyes in the back of his head” to avoid stepping on referees in the future on such plays, was far from the only culprit in Atlanta’s cold stretch in the fourth. While Middleton was on fire, the Hawks were collectively colder than ice, making four shots and scoring nine points over the final nine minutes of the game.
That was enough for the Hawks to let slip a game that they controlled for large stretches, having jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first quarter and led for much of the first three.
“Obviously, there are times when he carries us, but we’ve got to pick up the slack a little bit,” Hawks guard Kevin Huerter said. “Just couldn’t make shots down the stretch there. Trae obviously wasn’t the same. Just kind of a freak thing — he rolls it on the ref.
“Some things are out of your control, but we’ve got to be there to pick him up a little bit, and we didn’t tonight.”
But while the Hawks were frustrated about the opportunity they let get away from them, Huerter was quick to remind everyone that Atlanta had also been down two games to one in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers after losing Game 3 at home.
And, with the Hawks still playing now, it’s proof things aren’t over for Atlanta just yet.
“I wouldn’t say we’re in a great spot,” Huerter said with a smile. “Obviously, we’d rather be up 2-1.
“But it’s not a spot that we’re not familiar with.”