The Milwaukee Bucks lamented their lack of aggressiveness on the defensive end in Game 1.
That lack of urgency resulted in a 48-point masterclass from Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young, but with Milwaukee hoping to avoid a 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals they found their groove, shutting down Young and the Hawks in the 125-91 win.
Young finished with just 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting, with the combination of Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez shutting down the electric guard's airspace in pick-and-roll situations.
"Trae is a great young player in this league and he's hard to guard," Holiday told reporters. "If I get beat Brook is always there to have my back and everyone's back."
"Mix it up, make it difficult, not allow too many easy looks. Last game he was living in the paint, had a lot of floaters. We didn't want that to get him started and I don't think he went to the free-throw line a lot which is big for us."
"I think I played smarter tonight. I played smarter than I did last game."@MotorolaUS | #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/qqbZspC8Is- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 26, 2021
It wasn't just the coverage of Young that bothered Milwaukee in Game 1, with the Hawks binging on the offensive glass down the stretch, an area that Milwaukee cleaned up this one, outscoring Atlanta 24-11 in second chance points.
"We definitely felt there were things we could have done better," Holiday said of the Game 1 effort.
"Obviously going back and looking at film there were a lot of mistakes that could have been corrected. We know what kind of team they are, they play fast, they have a lot of weapons but at the same time if they miss there is going to be long rebounds."
In the opposition locker room, Young was shouldering the blame for the result, disappointed in the rare off night. Young committed a season-high nine turnovers on the night as the Bucks continuously swarmed him with the ball in hand.
"That's all on me. I've got to be better at taking care of the ball and doing a better job of at least getting us a shot," said Young. "Nine turnovers is way too many, I need to be better and I will be better next game."
"They didn't do anything too much different, they just played more aggressive. More aggressive and (referee Scott Foster) and them allowed more to go tonight. Just got to be better and be able to respond a lot better. As the game continued we knew how desperate they needed this one so as the game went on it felt like they were hitting everything and we couldn't get a shot to drop. It was just one of those nights and sometimes it happens like that."
Jrue showed out:- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 26, 2021
22 PTS | 7 AST | 9/14 FG | 3/4 3PT pic.twitter.com/9E1kFGwc3v
For the third straight series Atlanta have stolen Game 1 on the road before dropping Game 2, leaving the young group in familiar territory heading home.
"It's exciting being able to go back home, we wanted to steal one on the road, we did that so now we go home and play in front of our fans in the Eastern Conferance Finals."
The Game 2 defensive performance was exactly the reason Milwaukee acquired Holiday, who also chipped in with 22 points on the offensive end. It's been a big week for the Milwaukee guard, with the announcement that he will be joining Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics next month.
Holiday acknowledged the honour, before quickly reminding everyone he has a job to complete first.
"I think it's an honour to play for your country. Especially an opportunity like this to have USA on your chest. My wife has two gold medals, I've experienced it from a fan standpoint and I thought it would be cool to expereience it actually playing. What's happening right now is my main focus and it's going to continue to be that. We are on the road to the finals and whatever happens up until that point, this is what matters."
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