Tyler Dorsey of the Atlanta Hawks reacts after hitting a three-point basket against the Brooklyn Nets at Philips Arena on January 12, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by )
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Why Tyler Dorsey’s defensive stand against Suns was so significant 

Taurean Prince’s game-winning 3-pointer that gave the Hawks a win over the Suns in the final seconds on Sunday deserves attention.

It was not the exclamation point. 

Hawks rookie Tyler Dorsey’s coverage of Devin Booker should be highlighted - especially on what could have been the Suns’ leading scorer’s own game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds left.

Booker struggled early against the Hawks, mainly due to the defense pressure applied by Dorsey. The former first-round draft pick out of Kentucky shot 2 of 5 from the field for four points with five turnovers in the first half. Booker is the NBA’s 10th leading scorer at 25.1 points per game.

“Just staying attached to him all game, just make shots hard for him and if he makes difficult ones all night, that’s what I want him to do. That was my mindset coming into it the whole night,” Dorsey said after the Hawks’ 113-112 win.

Booker entered the game averaging 25.5 points and finished Sunday’s game with 20 points, 11 in the fourth quarter. Dorsey was a big reason Booker was just 8 of 18 from the field.

Booker, the 3-point contest champion at this year’s All-Star weekend, had a 39-point game against the Thunder on Friday. He became the third-youngest NBA player to reach 4,000 career points after LeBron James and Kevin Durant. 

Dorsey, who made his second career start, was put in the position to defend the game’s final shot because coach Mike Budenholzer chose to sit experienced players such as Dennis Schroder to watch how the youngsters played in a tight game.

For final two minutes, Budenholzer played Prince, Dorsey, Jaylen Morris, Miles Plumlee and Mike Muscala. Prince agreed it will only make the young players better.

“Putting the (load) on our shoulders and making us do a lot, I feel like it’s only going to make us better,” Prince said. “To whom much is given, much is required.”

After Prince’s 3-pointer, Dorsey kept his eye on Booker as he did most of the game, followed him down the floor and contested the shot enough to seal the win. 

Just moments after, Dorsey ranked the defensive stand in the final second as one of his favorite moments of the season.

“Tonight’s up there for sure,” Dorsey said. “Because I just gave the defense a stop, had that one-on-one for the game, so it’s ‘Get the stop or you have a game-winner on your head.’”

Dorsey played a career- and team-high 32 minutes. He shot 4 of 12 from the field and 2 of 5 from 3-point range for 12 points. 

The Hawks rested Kent Bazemore Sunday and gave the 22-year-old Dorsey the prime opportunity.

“Especially when I’m starting, Baze will help me tell me little different things (like) how to guard Booker tonight,” Dorsey said. “Throughout the game and before (he gave some advice) because he has to matchup with him if he was playing, so he knows tips and he helped me out that way.”

After taking a few piece of advices from Bazemore, Dorsey said he was locked on Booker and blocked everything else out.

“Devin Booker’s such a good player,” Budenholzer said. “Put it in his hands, let him play one-on-one. Obviously, he’s got great explosiveness. He rises up. He got a good look, but I think Tyler’s defense and the contest, it looked like it was right on target, just a little bit long.”

Over the past five days, the young Hawks team defeated the 34-win Pacers at home, took the reigning NBA champions Warriors to the wire and defeated the Suns at home. 

The encouraging stretch ended with Hawks winning their 20th game of the season. A 20-44 record is not cause to celebrate.

“I think I’ve built since the beginning of the season,” Dorsey said. “Mostly defensively and learning how to guard those players that come off screens and do those screens and it’s been a journey for me. Now I’m just taking advantage of my opportunity every time I get a chance to step on the floor.” 

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