In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks simply couldn’t help themselves. The upstart Atlanta Hawks exploited their unwillingness to adjust against their Pick-and-Roll and stole Game 1. Quite a different story in Game 2.
Milwaukee dominated wire-to-wire and rolled (see what I did there) to a 125-91 victory, to tie the series up at one apiece.
Defensively, the Bucks need to do three things: put Jrue Holiday on Hawks guard Trae Young, put defenders up on the pick-and-roll, instead of having bigs in the lane and retreating, and they need to rebound.
The Bucks did some defensive switching on Young, but Jrue was a prime defender on him for most of the game. As a result of their efforts, Young wasn’t able to sniff the kind of explosion he had in Game 1. Bucks held Young to 15 points and 9 turnovers.
The Hawks weren’t able to get an effective pick-and-roll going all game long. Why? Mike Budenholzer made the necessary (and glaring) adjustment to put defenders right up on the initial pick-and-roll action. Stop Young from getting in the lane, and you force him to make decisions he, and the rest of this young squad, have to think about. That’s when you’re able to take advantage. Bucks forced 19 turnovers and were able to get out into transition.
The surprising lack of rebounding by Milwaukee in Game 1 was a big problem. Second-chance points leads to teams hanging around. Teams handling around usually leads to a loss, which is what happened in Game 1.
Game 2, the Bucks didn’t afford the Hawks such second-chances. Milwaukee lead the rebound margin 47-34, taking advantage of some of those long rebounds, to get easy fast break buckets. A complete 180 from Wednesday night’s less-than-stellar effort.
It was very clear the Bucks were a step slow in Game 1. Call it a Game 7 hangover. (If you will.) What ever it was, it was no longer present in Game 2. Milwaukee seemed a step ahead, and several steps above, Atlanta. They did what a veteran team should do: destroy the confidence of a young team.
Game 3, Sunday night in Atlanta, will be interesting to see. Will the Hawks have a short memory, or will the Bucks continue to punish the Hawks for believing they’re on their level? We shall see.