The villain role in New York sports truly gets cemented by repeat performances, so let’s see what Trae Young can do for an encore.
The third-year Hawks guard certainly got off to a strong start with a last-second, game-winning bucket Sunday night in Game 1 against the Knicks in his postseason debut, both embracing and quieting the chants of “F–k Trae Young” from the vocal Garden faithful.
As impressed as they were with how Young fed off and fired back at the venomous crowd, his coach and teammates know only more of the same combativeness — or perhaps worse — is to be expected from the New York fans in the next game Wednesday night.
“Game 2, as I’ve said to our guys, is going to be even crazier. The intensity is going to go up a lot. We have to be ready for that,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said on a Zoom call after practice Monday. “I didn’t know if I was really hearing what they were saying. I hadn’t heard that in an arena before, not from the whole building.”
“I thought Trae did a good job of blocking out the noise, which you have to do. … It didn’t seem like it impacted him at all. He was able to stay focused on what he had to do out there on the floor and able to get a win.”
Like infamous Garden foil Reggie Miller more than a quarter-century ago, the 22-year-old Young eventually had the last laugh in the series opener, trolling silenced Knicks fans by putting his finger over his mouth following his game-winning shot.
Following the game, Young told reporters he took the fan reaction as a sign of respect that he “must be doing something right.” And he later tweeted, “What they gonna say next? 1-0.”
Playoff-tested teammates such as Lou Williams and Clint Capela believe Young proved he is equipped for such moments.
“He showed it [Sunday] night,” Capela said. “He showed the whole game, making the right decisions. He showed up.”
The Swiss-born Capela also joked that he knows “bad words in Italian, Spanish and [other languages]” from playing in Europe.
“We were all excited for the crowd, but I didn’t expect them to say what they said to him,” Capela said with a laugh. “Not the whole crowd at the same time like that.
“But this is New York, this is the mecca and there’s nothing really like it.”
Hawks wing Kevin Huerter, an upstate New York product, admitted he was surprised by the MSG crowd’s saltiness, even before tipoff.
“That’s New York for you. We knew it was going to be loud. I don’t know if we expected some of the language that was out there, but that’s New York,” Huerter said. “They’re passionate fans. It was a lot of fun and we expect the same Wednesday.
“The energy of the crowd, you get booed onto a court, it’s almost just as fun as walking onto a court with everybody cheering for you. There was a great energy in the building. I think we fed off that.”
None more than Young, who was forced to improvise on his game-winning drive around Frank Ntilikina due to a teammate’s wardrobe malfunction, according to Huerter.
“The play to be honest kind of fell apart, [John Collins’] shoe fell off, and there was kind of a big mix-up for a second,” Huerter said. “We were all looking at each other like what are we going to do? But Trae had the mindset to clear everybody out and just go to work by himself.”
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