Celtics’ Marcus Smart sounds off on Atlanta Hawks’ Dejounte Murray, Trae Young

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Whereas the Atlanta Hawks had seemingly gotten closer to securing a victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of their first-round playoff matchup, they sealed the deal with a resilient 130-122 victory in Gam3 3 at home in State Farm Arena.

The effort was sparked by the Hawks’ backcourt of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young who combined for 57 points on the night.

“They make you think,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart via the NBC Sports Boston YouTube channel. “They do a good job of putting the defense on their toes, attacking the defense, making you have to get down and guard. … They got to their spots, and hit some tough ones.”

This could be a turning point game for the Hawks even if the odds still favor Boston.

Historically speaking, the Hawks greatly improved their chances of moving on by roughly 20%, though that is from a starting point of 0% since no team has ever come back after falling into a 3-0 deficit.

Young finished with 32 points, 9 assists, six rebounds, two blocks, and one steal while shooting better than 54% from the floor. He had been under heavy fire in recent days thanks to a poll of a small group of players suggesting that he is the NBA’s most overrated player. There was also the significant matter of his recent playoff performances.

To Smart’s point, Young’s 2-for-6 (33.3%) mark from deep was his best of the series. More importantly, he did not settle as those shots continued not to fall, instead attacking the paint with success.

Per NBA.com game data, 13 of his 16 non-three-pointers came inside the paint where Young was 7-for-13.

The always-confident Young alluded to such a performance after Game 2.

Murray tallied 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, and one steal.

He’s been the Hawks’ most consistent performer throughout this series even as he went 0-for-6 from deep in Game 1.

Quin Snyder credits Dejounte Murray and Trae Young for Atlanta Hawks’ win

Much has also been made about the Murray-Young combo ranging from what the Hawks gave up to acquire the one-time All-Star to the duo’s fit on the court.

This game highlighted the value and efficacy of the pairing.

“I thought we played with great intensity,” Hawks head coach Quin Snyder said via the Hawks’ official YouTube channel. “Particularly Trae and DJ, from a leadership standpoint. …connecting, pushing each other.

“They were talking to each other, first of all. Kind of figuring out what they were thinking together, playing off each other. I think you saw it in some of the execution in the fourth quarter. At one point I was like, ‘I should just be quiet and let them go on and handle it.’ Because usually when that’s happening…people will play off them.”

Murray and Young combined to score 16 of the Hawks; 26 third-quarter points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor.

The fourth quarter was more of the same.

Young tallied 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting and went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe while Murray poured in an additional seven points giving the duo 22 of the Hawks’ 30 points in the final 12 minutes of play.

They also hit 2-of-3 triples in the final frame to help put this game away accounting for the team’s final 14 points of the contest.

“They made some tough shots as we knew they would,” said Smart. “They’re back in front of their crowd, they’re back home. Get that little extra boost when you’re back home…You tip your hat off and move on to the next one.”

In an interesting development, Smart said that he was unsure he would be able to suit up for Game 4 after taking a hard fall in Game 3, per A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report on April 22.

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The Hawks will still have their hands full even if Boston is missing Smart as Atlanta native Malcolm Brogdon — who called out fans prior to Game 3 — and Derrick White have both proven effective for the Celtics in the series. It’s a big blow for Boston and potentially a big boost for Atlanta’s backcourt if they don’t have to face the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year.