Generally, there are two schools of thought in dealing with elite NBA playoff scorers. The first is to let this guy take his and make sure his other guys don’t beat you up. Second, if anyone on that team is going to beat you, make sure it’s not that guy.
The Milwaukee Bucks dropped out of one school and were kicked out the other Wednesday night.
The Bucks lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home to Atlanta 116-113 because in trying to contain Hawks scorer Trae Young while keeping his teammates in check, they exhausted options’ a ‘and’ b ”and eventually opted for“ c. “As in” none “.
Young did in Milwaukee by giving his team a 1-0 lead in the top seven series, something Brooklyn Durant had done for most of the seven games of their conference semifinal showdown. Young just did it with a release point and launch angle adjusted to around nine inches, based on his height difference from the Nets’ lanky sniper.
The Hawks point guard scored 48 points and added 11 assists, going directly to 72 of Atlanta’s 116 points. He tied Kobe Bryant and LeBron James for most points scored in a playoff game before he turned 23. And he’s the first player in conference finals history to score 45 or more points with 10 or more assists.
The 22-year-old from Oklahoma, the fifth pick in the 2018 draft, turned Atlanta’s unexpected 2021 playoff run into an extended night out. Running along the first lane of the playoffs of his young career, he averaged 29.1 points as he eliminated New York and then Philadelphia, silencing a tough crowd at Madison Square Garden in the first round before (without his best assets. ) to turn the surly folks at Wells Fargo Center onto the home team in Game 7.
Young’s reputation, however brief and newly polished, has preceded him at the Fiserv Forum – and he’s done it again, burning the stag and reminding their fans it’s not because a playoff series is long. that it’s always fun.
What’s important to remember about the Hawks, however, is that this is not a one-man production. Young is their emerging name above the title, but he had – and needed – tremendous help. He got it over and over, especially late, from John Collins, Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, even Solomon Hill. At various points, they stepped up defensively, finished Young’s games, organized more, and, for a team that would be on such deep practice wheels, showed as much or more balance as the Bucks. experienced.
It’s more happening with the Hawks than a lone star. Young had the shimmy on Wednesday, but those teammates provided much of the shake.
“I feel like a lot of people haven’t looked at us until now. Just to be blunt, ”said Collins, the power forward who scored 23 points, took 15 rebounds and was plus-12 (compared to Young’s plus-10). “But I feel like we’ve just put ourselves in a position to do it all year round because of the makeup of our team and our team structure, and what we’ve been able to do.”
In 13 playoff games so far, Atlanta has six road wins, including Game 1 of each series. It started the season 14-20, bad enough that coach Lloyd Pierce was fired, but has since moved to 36-15 (.706) for the best Eastern Conference record since March 1.
That includes a 13-2 record in games decided by five points or less since Nate McMillan slipped into Pierce’s seat. There’s something to be said for not knowing what you don’t know, and the Hawks seem as naive as they are unfazed as the competition supposedly gets tougher and the bright lights warmer.
“I just hope they mature,” McMillan said, “and they show that growth and they start to believe in what we do and how we train and condition ourselves to play. We’re just trying to play the game of. the right way, to play energetically, to play basketball selflessly and always, we talk about it first and be connected. I think that’s what you see from these guys coming down the stretch to the two ends of the floor.
If the Hawks looked shaken, maybe it was in the first few minutes. Then they settled down well. They were assertive and stingy in the third quarter, topping the Bucks 34-26. And they didn’t mess around when they slipped behind 105-98 with 4:18 to go, Milwaukee and those in its arena anticipating a dagger anytime.
No dagger came. Collins shot a missed 3 point and dunked it. Capela, en route for 12 points and 19 rebounds, caught Khris Middleton’s stray 3. Then came a grueling defensive possession for the Bucks with less than two minutes to go: Young missed a long 3 points, Collins rebounded. Hill also missed a trey, Capela bounced back. Finally, Collins struck from the left corner, reducing Milwaukee’s lead from four to one.
Two more failed Bucks, two more Capela rebounds. Then he caught another in the offensive glass, coming back up after Young’s failed float to give the Hawks their final field goal and a 112-111 lead, 29.8 seconds.
In the fourth quarter, Collins and Capela had 13 points and 10 rebounds, making their six shots. Above all, they and their teammates – led by Young – reacted on the fly to Milwaukee’s defensive change.
When the Bucks started with their questionable “drop” defense, Young tapped the space in the lane given to him by center Brook Lopez with a flurry of his floats. When they tried to counter this by switching defenders here and there, Young separated the impromptu clashes by finding Collins, Capela or others.
Thus, the Hawks do not win without the dazzling performance of their point guard in the first game. But they don’t win with it either.
Trae Young’s night out is actually a night out.
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Steve Aschburner has been writing about the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his archives here and follow him on twitter.
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.