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How On Earth Did The Hawks Win This One?

The Atlanta Hawks celebrate after a buzzer beater. They're all in a pile. Two Raptors players are in the foreground, dejected.
Image: TSN

I shall begin with what we know: Last night, Tony Snell hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Atlanta Hawks a 121-120 win over the Toronto Raptors. How they got there is a mystery that needs to be unraveled. The Raptors led by as many as 15, and were up seven points with 1:15 left and the ball. They lost. Let’s unravel this mystery.

The Raptors were missing Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Patrick McCaw, and Malachi Flynn to COVID protocols. So it’s not surprising they lost. But the way they lost was particularly painful. It looked like a good night for Toronto when Lowry, who passed Chris Bosh on the Raptors’ all-time scoring list, hit Chris Boucher for a layup-and-one with six minutes left in the game, extending their lead to 15. But Atlanta chipped away. Trae Young and Danilo Gallinari each hit threes and a pair of free throws, and suddenly the lead was single digits. Still, when Stanley Johnson hit a three-pointer to put Toronto up seven with 1:12 to play, the game seemed in hand.

After a Kevin Huerter three-pointer, Norman Powell missed a pair of free throws. Then Trae Young blew past two Raptors defenders for a layup that made it a two-point game. The Hawks played great defense on the ensuing possession, and Lowry missed a long jumper. But Toronto got the rebound! And then … DeAndre’ Bembry’s jumper was short. Atlanta would get one last shot.

Ah, it ruled. “As I was driving to get to the hole,” Young said, “I saw K-Lo helping, and I knew somebody was open.” If you watch the replay, Snell moves to find basically the only place Young could pass him the ball with time to get a shot off. For as talented a scorer as Young is, it was still a no-brainer for him to kick it out, since Snell leads the league in three-point percentage since the start of February.

As a random YouTube highlight reel I found put it: “Trae Young Fakes Entire Raptors With Highest IQ Then Tony Snell UNREAL Game Winner !” In the extremely muddled East mid-pack, the win put the Hawks in a virtual four-way tie with the Raptors, Pacers, and Bulls for the 8-seed. Atlanta may have needed a Toronto collapse to win tonight, but they sure looked real smart on that last play.