A few months ago, after he was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Atlanta Hawks in one of the more surprising deadline deals, Lou Williams was so upset that he considered retirement. On Tuesday night, he stepped up and delivered a clutch performance to bring the Hawks within two games of the NBA Finals.
Shortly before Game 4, the Hawks announced that Trae Young would be out due to a bone bruise in his foot that he suffered in bizarre fashion by stepping on a referee’s foot in Game 3. Williams took his place, and in the first playoff start of his career put up 21 points, five rebounds and eight assists on 7 of 9 from the field. With the veteran leading the way, the Hawks secured a 110-88 win over the Milwaukee bucks to tie the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2.
“When we saw in our starting five that we had Lou Williams, we were super confident man,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “You see what that man can do? He was thinking about retirement this year? Man, he can still hoop.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s knee injury will understandably be the main topic of discussion in the coming days, but that wasn’t the only reason the Hawks won this game. Remember, they largely dominated the first half and were still up by 10 points when Giannis left the game for good.
Much of the Hawks’ success was driven by Williams, who submitted not only his best playoff game of this current run, but one of the best of his career. In the first three games of the ECF combined, Williams had only scored 13 points on 4 of 14 from the field. He had that many points by halftime in Game 4.
Williams isn’t Trae Young. He doesn’t have the same quickness — at least not at this stage in his career — or range on his jumper. But he does have a similar skillset and found success in similar ways to Young as he operated as the focal point of the Hawks’ offense for large stretches. Overall, he either scored or assisted on 15 of the Hawks’ 43 made field goals (34.8 percent).
Like Young, Williams is comfortable operating in the pick and roll, and we saw him take advantage of the Bucks’ drop coverage to hit more than a few open jumpers. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has made a living hitting shots just like this.
He also showed off a nice floater of his own.
And even got a defender up in the air on a jumper as if to put the finishing touches on his Young impersonation.
Williams has always been more of a scorer, but he has some playmaking skills as well, and put them to work early and often in this game. He finished with eight assists — the most in a playoff game for him since 2019 — and arguably was unlucky not to hit double figures.
He was driving and dishing to open shooters on the perimeter.
And again, just like Young, was carving the Bucks up in the pick-and-roll with lobs to his bigs.
Young’s status for Game 5 and moving forward is still unclear, and it goes without saying that the Hawks will want him back. But if he’s unable to go, Williams proved that he’s willing and able to take his place.