Trae Young had a night to remember in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
With 48 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in the Atlanta Hawks' Game 1 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, the 22-year-old recorded one of the best scoring performances we've ever witnessed in the conference finals round. Only Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James and Michael Jordan have recorded bigger scoring nights on this stage.
MORE: Young's performance by the numbers | NBA world reacts
He got his in a number of ways, too.
According to NBA.com Stats, Young, who finished the night shooting 17-for-34 from the field, was 8-for-13 on driving floaters in the game and 4-for-13 from beyond the arc.
Young wasted no time getting to his floater, either, scoring his first bucket of the night on Atlanta's first offensive possession of the game.
I could go on at great lengths to talk about Young's floater - or the drop coverage that he picked apart - but NBA.com's Scott Rafferty detailed what made his floater so lethal during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, while NBA.com's Benyam Kidané took a postgame look at how he took advantage of Milwaukee's defence in Game 1.
That being said, given the Bucks' pedigree as one of the league's best defences, the question is whether or not they have an answer to slow Young down as the series progresses. A look at the matchup data from Game 1 gives a brief idea of what Milwaukee tried in the series opener.
As expected, All-Defensive First Teamer Jrue Holiday guarded Young more than any other Buck in Game 1, but the results were interesting. While NBA.com's matchup data isn't perfect, it shows that Young scored 13 points (on 5-for-8 shooting), dished out four assists and made multiple trips to the free throw line while being guarded by Holiday.
With Young engaging in plenty of pick-and-roll actions as the ball handler, there were a number of switches from Milwaukee's defence. The data suggests that some of Young's most efficient scoring came while defended by Pat Connaughton, as he put up eight points in just 4.36 partial possessions.
Arguably the most intriguing look came on the 6.79 partial possessions in which Young was guarded by the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year in Giannis Antetokounmpo, mostly a product of switches when Giannis was in the game as Milwaukee's center.
MORE: Why Giannis at center is a cheat code
As staunch of a defender as Holiday is, Atlanta's manipulation of Milwaukee's defensive principles oftentimes freed Young to get comfortable in Game 1 to develop a rhythm. And once a prolific scorer like Young gets into his rhythm? Well, good luck.
Even after Holiday buckled down to make life more difficult in the second half, Young was crafty enough to draw fouls and use his size - or lack thereof - to his advantage. It's a point that Holiday acknowledged after the game.
"Sometimes going against somebody like Trae who is a bit lighter, who initiates the contact and gets those calls, is hard to guard, you know what I mean," the three-time All-Defensive guard said.
"I got to play smarter. I think I can be more aggressive. I started to be more aggressive in the second half and trying to speed him up a little bit and maybe get him out of his comfort zone but I've got to do that from the beginning"
Couple a more aggressive Holiday with a heavier reliance on a lineup in which Antetokounmpo is at the five, and the team can be a menace defensively when they switch everything, something that isn't exactly a possibility when Brook Lopez is on the floor.
We got a taste of that in the fourth quarter, when Mike Budenholzer employed the switchy lineup of Holiday, Connaughton, Middleton, Tucker and Antetokounmpo.
On two seperate late-game possessions, Antetokounmpo was switched onto Young, and his length was imposing enough to discourage the drive, thus resulting in two long 3s that came up short, the latter of which led to a transition bucket from Giannis.
The Bucks are likely much more comfortable living with these kinds of attempts than they are dealing with the nightmare of deciphering whether or not Young is set to launch a floater or a lob.
Does that mean Giannis at the five is the ultimate answer? Taking a step back to look at a much larger sample size in the postseason as a whole, the Bucks have outscored teams by 26.7 points per 100 possessions with the above lineup of Holiday, Connaughton, Middleton, Tucker and Antetokounmpo, per NBA.com Stats.
And while it seems like an easy solution, there are more layers to it.
As evidenced by the combined nine offensive rebounds from John Collins (five) and Clint Capela (four), Lopez's value is felt on the boards, as well as the insurance policy he provides to allow Antetokounmpo to roam defensively as he does so well.
There's no better play to illustrate this than the late game possession in which Collins cut the deficit to one after Atlanta pulled down two offensive boards.
We learned in Game 1 that the Hawks have answers to combat what the Bucks throw their way, meaning the solution to making life difficult for Young is to keep him guessing. At times, it might be a more aggressive Holiday, while others could be the imposing length of Antetokounmpo forcing lower-percentage shots from distance.
Just two months ago, this Bucks team managed to hold Young to 15 points on 3-for-17 shooting from the field. While they're now facing a playoff-tested, more confident version of Young, they have some answers to slow him down, they'll just need to perfect their approach.
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