ATLANTA — An MRI on the sprained right ankle of Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young revealed a bone bruise in his foot Monday afternoon, and he’ll be listed as questionable for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
“That’s the head of our snake,” Hawks forward John Collins said Monday afternoon. “That’s 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 think he stepped on the official’s foot or somebody’s foot.
“That’s the last thing I want to see. I hate to see it, and just hoping, praying that he’s going to be OK.”
Young sprained the ankle with 36 seconds to go in the third quarter of Game 3 on Sunday when he inadvertently stepped on the right foot of referee Sean Wright. Young briefly went back to the locker room before returning with 8:44 to go in the fourth quarter.
But Young, who had 32 points through the first three quarters, was clearly hampered by the injury in the fourth, lacking some of the pop and explosiveness he’d had earlier in the game.
He was visibly frustrated by the situation after Sunday’s game, though both Collins and center Clint Capela said that when they talked to him Monday, he was in better spirits.
“Yeah, obviously we’re going to have to adapt,” Capela said when asked what the Hawks will do if Young remains at less than 100% for Tuesday’s game. “I don’t know how — I mean, how many percent he’s going to be or what kind of Trae he’s going to be. Even the fact that he’s out there with us, it means a lot already, in our minds and everything.
“As long as hopefully he can be out there with us, I don’t know if he will or not, but hopefully he is.”
Hawks coach Nate McMillan repeatedly referred to Monday as a “get what you need day” for his players — be that massages, treatment or getting some shots up. For Young, that was obviously going to be a day full of recovery from his injury.
“He’s feeling OK,” McMillan said. “He’s disappointed in the loss. Just as most guys, they have something that’s going on, whether it’s an injury or some soreness. Today is a day to take care of whatever it is that you need to get yourself ready for tomorrow.
“So that’s where Trae is at. He’s getting what he needs, which is a little treatment, and whatever else he needs, whether it’s a massage or whatever, to get himself ready for tomorrow.”
But that didn’t mean McMillan wasn’t focused on things his team can improve as it tries to even the series with a victory in Game 4. Specifically, the veteran coach had two areas that left him frustrated with how Game 3 played out: poorly thought-out quick shots, which led to the Bucks flying out in transition for easy baskets on far too many occasions, and an inability to keep the Bucks out of the paint.
“I thought we were taking quick, contested shots early in the clock throughout the game,” McMillan said. “That was really from all of our guards. We just didn’t show patience to find the matchup or the mismatch that they were giving us and taking advantage of that. Again, those plays led to transition points.
“I thought there were times where we didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball in front. We allowed those guys to play in the paint without giving help. There were times when they missed shots and they, again, beat us to the boards, the offensive rebounds.
“They made plays every time we tried to make a run to stop our runs, and that was the difference in winning that game. They made shots when they needed to. They got stops when they needed to. We didn’t do that, and that was the difference in the game.”
It has been a wildly successful playoff run for the Hawks, who went from being 14-20 and firing McMillan’s predecessor, Lloyd Pierce, in the middle of the season to turning things around to finish fifth in the East. They then dismissed a pair of higher-seeded opponents, the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
After they won a third straight Game 1 on the road to open this series, they have come back to earth over the past two games, being routed in Game 2 and collapsing down the stretch in the fourth quarter under a barrage of Hawks misses and Khris Middleton makes in Game 3.
All of it, though, is a learning experience for the Hawks — something Collins said isn’t just happening on a game-by-game basis but on every play in his first postseason trip.
“It just really shows how hard winning in the playoffs really is,” Collins said. “It shocks me every new game I play, the next game I play, how difficult the experience is.
“It always lets me know that this is real basketball. This is probably going to be the toughest basketball that I can ever play on this stage. It just challenges me to try to just be more locked in every possession because this is real tough basketball right now.”