How Did Trae Young Get His Game 1 Points? And How Do The Sixers Adjust?

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Trae Young scored 35 points in the Atlanta Hawks’ Game 1 win over the Sixers, and he did it in a variety of ways.

Floaters, deep threes, free throws – you name it and he did a good job with it on Sunday afternoon. It was the big story of the game for Sixers fans, Young’s performance and the Sixers’ approach to defending him.

They started Danny Green on Young and had Ben Simmons in an off-ball role instead, which was switched up to start the second half. Ultimately, two quick fouls forced Doc Rivers to get away from the strategy, but there was more energy and urgency with Simmons and Matisse Thybulle taking more possessions against Young in the second half.

Trae shot 11-23 on the afternoon, and went 4-11 from deep while going 9-9 from the stripe. He was more effective in the first half and if we’re going to understand how they guarded him, obviously we have to look at the video.

Here’s a short clip with all of his shot attempts:

Here’s the log, to help us sort this out:

  1. pick and roll, step-back three (missed)
  2. early transition pick and roll/drag for a floated (make)
  3. pick and roll, Danny Green goes under screen, three-pointer (miss)
  4. pick and roll into floater (make)
  5. fake pick and roll/slip screen into deep three (make)
  6. pick and roll, reject screen into slot drive (make)
  7. early pick and roll, three pointer (make)
  8. double drag, floater (make)
  9. pick and roll, drive (blocked)
  10. double drag, deep three (make)
  11. double drag, three (miss)
  12. pick and roll, switch, deep three (make)
  13. transition drive, (blocked)
  14. pick and roll, floater (miss)
  15. pick and roll, drive (blocked)
  16. early transition deep three (miss)
  17. pick and roll, step-back jumper (make)
  18. PNR/iso into deep three (miss)
  19. pick and roll, switch, step-back three (miss)
  20. fake PNR/slip screen again, step-back three (miss)
  21. iso, drive (make)
  22. PNR/drive, baseline floater (make)
  23. iso, floater (miss)

He didn’t make a lot of second half shots, and defensively, there were only a handful of sequences there with totally blown coverages, where the Sixers got it all wrong. And on some of those deep threes, there’s nothing you really can do. You just tip your hat to the guy.

But there were a few plays where they went over screens and didn’t push him off the three-point line. There was a blown coverage on that fourth quarter floater as well. The problem is more or less schematic, and it’s about getting the pick and roll spacing and coverage right, which is difficult when you have a guy who can shoot from 25 and 26 feet with regularity. Joel Embiid was dropping back pretty significantly to account for Clint Capela’s rolling, and with some of those screens being set high up the floor, it just gave Young a lot of space to work with.

Doc Rivers didn’t blame Danny Green individually for the problems with guarding Young, but did note that he was responsible for some of the “rejects” that took place on the floor. That means Young “rejected” the screen that was set for him and instead just went the other way, which would look like this is you wanna freeze the frame:

In that case, with Green playing high, and Embiid stepping up to the three point line, Young is just going to say “no thanks” to Capela’s screen and drive the slot instead.

That’s the risk you take with pushing Joel a little higher, because it leaves space behind.

On this particular sequence, Young similar rejects the screen, and takes the space, but Simmons comes off to help, and that leaves Kevin Huerter open in the corner:

It’s a tough thing to nail down schematically. You have to account for the fact that the Hawks have good shooters and do a good job finding the open man and making the right decisions.

I also clipped Young’s 10 assists, and there are some trapping and hedging examples in there:

The thing with the traps and hedges is that Young is pretty good at getting the ball out of his hands quickly. There were a number of sequences where Atlanta swung the ball around while Philly was scrambling in rotation, and that resulted in some open looks from three. If they’re gonna show bodies they have to either recover quickly or commit and smother, or else you’re caught in no man’s land.

I think Simmons guarding Young will make those traps more effective, even though you’re removing his length as an off-ball defender. But if you can use Ben’s size to paint him into a corner, hopefully Young can’t get the ball out and beat those double teams and force the scrambles. There’s a give-and-take with Simmons in this case, because while he’s an excellent on-ball defender, he’s equally good roaming and reading off-ball.

We’ll see! Good schematic stuff to look for in Game 2.

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