Trae Young has already proved he is ready for the NBA playoff stage. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was just the latest test the Hawks star passed with flying colors.
In Atlanta’s 116-113 series-opening win over Milwaukee on Wednesday night, Young scored a playoff career-high 48 points and dished out 11 assists. The 22-year-old scored or assisted on 72 of the Hawks’ 116 points, including 14 of their last 16 points of the contest, per ESPN Stats and Info.
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The Bucks didn’t provide much resistance in the first half, as Young hit 11 of his first 16 field goal attempts. A big reason why Young found so much success on the offensive end was because Milwaukee’s drop-heavy scheme allowed him to get to the spots where he is most comfortable operating.
Let’s take a look at three ways that Young took advantage of Mike Budenholzer’s defensive approach:
Dropping in the floater
Young led the NBA this season in both floaters made and attempted, and he realized early in Game 1 that one of his favorite shots would consistently be available to him. Less than a minute into the first quarter, Young came off a pick from Clint Capela, drove down the lane and tossed up an uncontested floater. Brook Lopez just kept dropping and dropping to the point that he was almost underneath the rim.
Lopez started up a little higher on the screen later in the quarter, but he still dropped too far back when Young penetrated into the paint. Young put Jrue Holiday in jail, keeping the All-Defensive First Team member on his hip and creating enough space for another floater.
And one more time. Once again, Lopez gave Young far too much room, and Jeff Teague wasn’t even in the ballpark.
Pulling up off the dribble
Young only shot 4 of 13 from 3-point range on Wednesday, but it seemed as though he could get to his pull-up game anytime he wanted. On this possession in the second quarter, Young lost Teague in the pick-and-roll, and with Lopez planted below the free throw line, this was an easy rise-and-fire opportunity.
When the Hawks went to the double drag setup late in the first half, the Bucks still had Giannis Antetokounmpo drop and relied on Pat Connaughton to recover. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Young stopped on a dime, Connaughton flew by and Young launched from just inside the arc.
So what happened when Antetokounmpo switched? The Hawks ran another pick-and-roll with Lopez’s man. No one in sight . . . swish.
Dishing to teammates
In the play below, Holiday did a nice job of navigating the screening action and chasing down Young. Lopez also used his size at the rim to discourage the floater. But Young is such a good playmaker that none of the effort mattered. He drew two defenders and flipped the ball to Capela for the dunk.
And then there was the play of the game. On a pick-and-roll with John Collins, Young sucked in both Holiday and Bobby Portis, then threw the ball off the backboard for a wild Collins slam. Make no mistake — this was intentional.
Milwaukee mixed in more switching toward the end of Game 1, and Budenholzer may have to rely on his more switchable small-ball lineups moving forward. Lopez was minus-14 in 20 minutes, and many of Young’s cleanest looks came with the 7-footer on the floor.
That could open up more rebounding opportunities for Atlanta, however. Capela came up with a huge offensive rebound in the closing seconds to give the Hawks a three-point lead after Antetokounmpo switched onto Young.
The simple truth is that Young is such a gifted offensive player that there is no easy solution for the Bucks. They will have to mix things up to slow him down.
“I’ve seen pretty much every defense,” Young said after Game 1. “It’s really just figuring out what kind of defense they’re showing that night. . . . For me, it’s just trying to make the right read and figure out how they’re going to guard.”