Second-year Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young put on one of the most dominant performances of the young NBA season on Tuesday.
Young scored 42 points on 13-of-21 shooting and added 11 assists to help the Hawks beat the Denver Nuggets, 125-121. In the process, Young recorded a new type of landmark stat line with an 8-8-8 game — at least eight three-pointers, eight free throws, and eight assists. According to SB Nation's Tom Ziller, Stephen Curry and James Harden are the only two NBA players with more than one such game.
While Young rained threes on the Nuggets from Curry-like distances, his best highlight of the night came in the third quarter, when he nutmegged the Nuggets' Will Barton, retrieved the ball, then hit a pull-up jumper along the baseline, in front of the Nuggets bench. Young then stared down the Nuggets bench, as Denver called a timeout.
The Nuggets broadcasters believed Young was staring down Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., who is close friends with Young. It seems the stare-down was playful gamesmanship more than anything else.
The Nuggets made a run in the fourth quarter, cutting the Hawks' lead down to three. That's when Young buried the Nuggets with his play-making and deep shooting.
If Young is hitting these shots, it's over.
The Nuggets tied the game at 101 with 8:16 to play. Over the remainder of the game, the Hawks outscored the Nuggets 24-20, with Young having a hand in 17 of those points (15 himself, one assist for a two-pointer).
After the game, Porter told The Athletic's Chris Kirschner that Young practically beat the Nuggets by himself.
“He was looking special tonight,” Porter said. “I was happy for him. I wish he didn't go crazy on us, but he looked good out there. I told him to keep being special. It's crazy how far he's come.
“He had 42 points. I had two points. But he looked really good out there. He looked super comfortable. He pretty much beat us by himself. It was crazy to watch. He's special. He already is special and he's only going to keep getting better.”
Young, who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting last season behind Luka Doncic, has made a huge leap in his second season. He's averaging 28 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game while shooting 46.4% from the field and 40.2% from three.
Young joined the Hawks under scrutiny — the Hawks had traded the No. 3 pick to the Mavericks, who took Doncic, the best prospect in the draft. When Young's career got off to a slow start, many criticized the Hawks for the move.
After Tuesday's game, Young took to social media with an apparent reminder that he hasn't forgotten the early criticism.
—Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) November 13, 2019
There's a fair debate about who got the better end of that deal, with Young and Doncic both lighting the league on fire in their second seasons. Games like Tuesday's surely don't make the Hawks regret the deal.