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What Knicks fans might see as arrogant or obnoxious — it really was just a good, old-fashioned butt-kicking by the guy on the other team — the head coach of the Hawks sees as something else in Trae Young, his jet-quick point guard.
“Guys with his talent, they don’t get here if they don’t have that confidence in themselves and some ability to do something special,’’ Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan said Tuesday after practice. “He has a skill on the offensive end of the floor that is a weapon and he can score as well as assist the basketball and you have to be confident in yourself to really have the success he has had.’’
Yeah, no one can detect a lack of confidence in Young, who in his first career playoff game shredded the Knicks every which-way possible. He scored 32 points, passed for 10 assists, grabbed seven rebounds and committed only two turnovers in 35 minutes. And, lest we forget, he lost defensive sub Frank Ntilikina with a crossover dribble, sped into the lane and hit the game-winning floater with 0.9 seconds remaining as the Hawks took Game 1, 107-105, at the Garden on Sunday.
“The playoffs are much more physical than the regular season, they allow you to play a little bit more,’’ McMillan said. “New York is an aggressive team defensively, one of the top defenses in the league. You can’t allow that to be a distraction, you have to play through that contact.’’
This is the central theme McMillan is trying to drill into his young team. While the spindly Young will get the brunt of the physical attention, the Knicks figure to try to rough up the Hawks as much as possible Wednesday night.
“We expect the intensity to go up a lot in Game 2,’’ McMillan said. “We have to bring the intensity up. We have to expect them to be even more aggressive in their play and I expect our guys to do the same thing. We have to be ready for that.’’
The message has been delivered and seems to have been received.
“They’re going to come out with more energy, they’re definitely going to play a lot more physical,’’ said Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, who was effective in banging with and limiting Knicks All-Star Julius Randle to only 15 points. “It will be another battle.’’
The fans chanting obscenities at Young as he torched the Knicks in the series opener only served to enliven the 22-year-old budding star. The Knicks will come up with a different plan of attack because their first attempt at keeping Young from wrecking the game failed, miserably and spectacularly.
“He’s seen a lot of different defenses this year,’’ McMillan said. “He’s seen a box-and-one. He’s seen some traps. He’s seen teams do a few different things against him and we have to counter what teams are trying to do out on the floor, but he also has to adjust to what teams are doing out on the floor.’’
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