Trae Young and Hawks shimmy past Bucks in Game 1 of Eastern Conference finals

Trae Young crossed over first-team All-Defense guard Jrue Holiday, held the ball, SHIMMIED and hit a 3-pointer.

Before running back on defense, Young looked around as if to say, Can you believe this guy?

By now, yes.

Young shushed Knicks fans then took a bow. He waved goodbye to 76ers fans. And he’s only getting more brazen in the Eastern Conference finals.

With 48 points and 11 assists, Young led the Hawks to a 116-113 win over the Bucks in Game 1 Wednesday in Milwaukee.

As amazing as Young’s shimmy was…

…it wasn’t even necessarily his best play in the game. He also threw an especially aggressive off-backboard alley-oop to John Collins, who went way up to finish over Brook Lopez:

This was the Hawks’ first-ever win in the Eastern Conference finals. The last time they won a game on this level was 1969, when they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Division finals. Atlanta won only one game in that series, though that remains the team’s deepest playoff run since moving from St. Louis. The Hawks can best that in Game 2 Friday.

The focus for that game: The Bucks’ defensive game plan on Young.

Young torched Milwaukee with floaters for three quarters. The Bucks primarily ran a drop coverage with Brook Lopez or Bobby Portis protecting the rim. Holiday didn’t stay closely enough attached, and Young cruised through the paint, hitting runners before reaching the last line of defense.

When the Bucks tried going under screens, Young knocked down 3-pointers.

Finally, Milwaukee went to a small-ball switching lineup in the fourth quarter. Young was left jacking and missing long 3-pointers over bigger Bucks defenders.

Young by opposing center:

Antetokounmpo might have to assume that role more often in Game 2, but his workload is already so large. Milwaukee outscored Atlanta by four in 41 minutes with Antetokounmpo (34 points, 12 rebound, nine assists, two steals and two blocks). The Bucks got outscored by seven in the other seven minutes.

Milwaukee outplayed the Hawks for much of the game. But the Bucks ran cold, shooting just 22% on 3-pointers. Khris Middleton was 0-for-9 from deep. Don’t count on that continuing. At least Holiday (33 points and 10 assists) compensated for his disappointing defense offensively.

That said, the Hawks weren’t much hotter, shooting just 25% from beyond the arc. They trailed by seven with four minutes left.

Which just meant yet another Atlanta comeback in this postseason.

The Hawks scored or offensively rebounded 9-of-10 shots down the stretch. Young just twisted the defense, putting Milwaukee out of position to rebound.

Collins (23 points and 15 rebounds) had a big putback dunk and – after Young drove, drew defenders and kicked out – hit an open 3-pointer. Cha-ching. Clint Capela (12 points and 19 rebounds) put the Hawks up for good with by putting back a Young miss with 30 seconds left.

And Young finally broke through against the switching defense, scoring while drawing a foul then drawing another pair of free throws. He hit them all late, including after the Bucks intentionally fouled.

Though this group has never been here before, Young is leading a team playing with incredible confidence.

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