Game 2 Adjustment: How the Sixers Tried to “Flatten Out” Trae Young

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One of the big storylines going in Sixers/Hawks Game 2 was defending Trae Young, and Doc Rivers made the assumed switch, putting Ben Simmons on the Atlanta guard and moving Danny Green to Bogdan Bogdanovic instead.

Within that adjustment was another adjustment, like a basketball version of the movie Inception, but not nearly as complicated.

It goes back to a quote Doc dropped after the Game 1 loss:

“Overall (the problem) was our coverages as much as it was Danny. The (screen) rejects were on Danny, the coverages on the double drag. That’s basically where they hurt us was on the double drag, but that was more on us.”

What Rivers is saying there is that Danny Green, or whoever is defending Trae Young, is responsible for him rejecting screens and going the other direction instead. Where the team-wide coverage comes into play is how they handled those multi-body double drag plays.

If you’re not familiar, a double drag is basically a high stagger that’s set in early transition moments. It will look like this when Trae Young brings the ball up the floor and crosses halfcourt:

On this sequence above, the Sixers sat back and Young just pulled up for a three-pointer.

So in Game 2, what they did was push the first off-ball defender up higher, as Rivers explained afterward:

“What Trae wants is to go downhill, and we thought the switch would at least flatten him out. Even if he beat our guys it would give us time to adjust and be in our help positions. In Game 1 he was just going downhill so quickly that we decided to switch on the double drag the first guy, not the second guy. And I thought that had some impact for us.”

Right, so basically they were just moving that second player higher and enacting the switch to get Young to move laterally. He’s capable of getting around that defender but the thought is that if you push him sideways it keeps him away from the basket and buys time.

Here’s an example:

Tobias Harris steps higher, and with Clint Capela just getting into position, it’s harder for Trae Young to get downhill there.

“It was just an adjustment we made,” said Harris. “We showed some flashes last game when we were out there, trying to trap and blitz, and that was leading to them making shots. So we just want to show different bodies on him. Obviously we started Ben on him then had different guys rotate in. He’s a dynamic player and uses his body well, so it’s hard to get as physical as you want when guarding him. But I thought we did a good job of standing our ground and being able to have him shoot and make tough shots.”

More or less, and that was the case with Bradley Beal in the opening series. These guys typically find a way to get their points, but if you make them work, then it means you’re doing your job.

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