Two times. That is how many times Atlanta Hawks rookie AJ Griffin has sealed a victory for his team at time expired. This time, he caught a perfect pass from Jalen Johnson and seemingly froze time as he spun in mid-air connecting on the improbable – but well-designed – play to uplift his team over the visiting Chicago Bulls.
The first time, Griffin was able to leak out and catch a lob from Trae Young to beat the Toronto Raptors. Both wins came in overtime against teams his father, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, either coached or played for adding another layer for the talented rookie.
After the game, Young spoke on his elation for Griffin and of similarities between this shot from Griffin had to one from Young’s rookie season.
He also spoke on the importance of keeping guys involved throughout the game.
Trae Young sounds off on keeping Atlanta Hawks teammates involved
“That’s our mindset coming in every night, is to move the ball,” Young told reporters after the game. “I mean, sometimes the ball is going in more than others. Early on tonight the ball was going in…and, I think, early on if everybody gets involved, I think, then at the end, everybody feels good to make plays.”
Young finished with 19 points and 14 assists as he struggled from the floor but didn’t let that stop him from getting other going.
It’s his 13th time recording double-digit assists this season.
That is the exact same number of times he did it through 25 appearances last season and he’s done most of it this season with Dejounte Murray also in the lineup. With Murray nursing an ankle injury for the next week-plus, the Hawks could need this version of Young more often.
He has not shot the ball particularly well this season with career lows from the floor (40.8%) and from beyond the arc (28.9%).
But he hit a pair of bombs late the latter of which he thought was the game-winner.
Young’s best play might have been the one he aborted before Griffin’s game-winner. In a savvy move, Young called a timeout allowing head coach Nate McMillan to insert Johnson on the inbound pass.
McMillan said that they had not practiced the play which assistant Joe Prunty drew up – one Prunty used during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks seven years prior.
It all came together for a Hawks team that national reports have painted as a powder keg.
This win snaps a three-game losing skid for the Hawks but they won’t get much respite as they turn right around and face the Memphis Grizzlies on the road in the second leg of this back-to-back that kicks off a three-game road trip.
The Hawks are just 5-8 on the road heading into Monday’s tilt with both teams nursing injuries so it is still up in the air a bit as to who will be available.