Just as he split Philadelphia 76ers goaltender Ben Simmons in the conference semifinals, Young outscored Jrue Holiday and the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks defense in Game 1 on the road. Young asserted complete control over the game, scoring 48 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in the Hawks’ 116-113 win over the Bucks.
Designing a game plan to defend Young on the high pick-and-roll is the first item on any opponent’s to-do list. At the start of Wednesday, the Bucks rolled out their most common strategy – dropping their big men in the paint as Young’s defender struggles onscreen. Young, who is a virtuoso of both the float and the lob-to-rim pass, exploited the space in front of the back-pedaled Milwaukee defenders.
“It’s tough,” Holiday said. “Especially when he’s making his floats, it looks like it’s all going to hell. “
Bucks forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton each characterized Young as being in his “comfort zone” in Game 1. Swinging around the double screen of Hawks bread and butter on top of the ground, Young attacked downhill. , has found Clint Capela and John Collins on numerous occasions, and has achieved four 3 points.
“We have to do a better job on him,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to score going down for the lobs and that’s his confidence. I think we just have to make it as difficult as possible for him, make him play a lot one on one. But at the end of the day he had 48 points, he’s a great player, like he’s going to score with a punch. “
It’s inconceivable that Young could lose 48 points in a conference final, on a visitor’s floor, and not engage in a play.
On an embarrassing possession for Milwaukee late in the third quarter, Young came out of a screen. As Bobby Portis fell in the paint and Holiday was knocked off the course with a cross dribble, Young had more than three seconds to get behind the arc with no Buck within a few yards. If it was James Harden, he would be licking his lips. But Young is his own man, and while he waited for a Milwaukee defenseman who would never arrive, he waved his shoulders before throwing and emptying the 3-point pointer.
“Ever since I was in college – when I was going on the road to college – I’ve always loved playing on the road,” Young said. “I loved playing against the opposing crowd, an opposing team. You feel like you’re really fair to your team, and it’s just them in the building. I think it really brings our group together. “
When Young made his next move to the field, he was picked up by Antetokounmpo on a switch, as the Bucks went small for the last 14 minutes of the game. In those 14 minutes, Young made only one of nine attempts to shoot from the field, returned the ball twice and recorded three assists.
While the Bucks have been largely loyal to their drop coverage in each of the previous two playoffs – Milwaukee ranked No.15 among 16 playoff teams last season in number of changes per possession – they have passed. much of this regular season in the lab cultivating different patterns. . They incorporated more switching and even zoned on occasion to roll out more flexibility for the playoffs.
On Wednesday night, the disparity between Atlanta’s pick-and-roll production against Milwaukee switches and their more traditional scheme was glaring. According to Second Spectrum, the Hawks generated 1.07 points by chance when the Bucks didn’t change – but only 0.64 points by chance when they did.
Being small is not without risk for the Bucks. Atlanta got four offensive rebounds in the 3:01 final of the game, which translated into seven points, including Capela’s removal of the go-ahead with 29.8 seconds left that would prove to be decisive.
“I think the most frustrating part of this game is the offensive rebounds,” said Antetokounmpo. “We had two or three consecutive offensive rebounds and they got a 3. They got the winning bucket from Clint Capela. “
Although Holiday was Young’s main defender in Game 1, Young scored buckets against six different Bucks. One Holiday teammate who spent time on Young was guard Jeff Teague, who had only played 31 minutes in Milwaukee’s 11 playoff games in the first two rounds. Coach Mike Budenholzer took Teague for a test drive, but putting him in charge of keeping Young certainly underscored the Bucks’ safeguards. In the short time he was defended by Teague, Young moved up to 3-3 on the field for eight points.
Budenholzer pointed out that Young’s wisest approach would require presenting her with different looks. Holiday did Yeoman’s job, but as Young demonstrated, even elite guards find it difficult to contain him – unless they have length. Milwaukee has a fair amount of them – including a particularly long and versatile defenseman at Antetokounmpo – but Young will continue to see a merry-go-round of defenders.
The Bucks greatly appreciate Lopez – his rim protection, rebounds, and offensive reach. But if there’s one advantage to be gained from Milwaukee’s loss on Wednesday, it’s the success they enjoyed against Young when they triggered their change defense with a smaller roster.
Whatever the Bucks choose to throw at Young, the task of slowing him down is a burden.
“I saw pretty much all of the defenses,” Young said, when asked if he was surprised at the space he found against the Milwaukee defense. “It’s really about determining what kind of defense they show that night. So I am not surprised. For me, it’s just about trying to do the right reading and figure out how they’re going to keep. They keep it a certain way, and just try to make plays and attack that way.
“I’m not really surprised, ever. ”