Although they've gone 4-1 so far in the postseason, knocking the Washington Wizards out of the NBA Playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers faced a couple of stars in Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal in round one.
Now, they focus their attention on the next superstar enemy in Atlanta Hawks guard, Trae Young. The first-time All-Star has had a stellar season in year three, and his first playoff appearance has been nothing short of impressive.
Against the New York Knicks in Round 1, Young averaged 29 points per game in five matchups. His contributions allowed the Hawks to beat the Knicks four out of five games, helping Atlanta advance past the second round.
Despite being an inexperienced star in the playoffs going against a more experienced roster, the Sixers know they have their hands full with Young. Following Philly's first practice session since wrapping up the Wizards series, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers analyzed the matchup, mentioning just how difficult it will be to face a player of Young's stature in the second round.
“It’s hard,” Rivers said on Friday. “He’s good for a reason. I’ve always said with guys like Trae and all the great scorers, if you can slow them down that easy, they wouldn’t be great scorers. They’re gonna make it difficult, or he will, but he has so many other guys to play with that he can pass to. They have a ton of shooting on the floor and a ton of playmakers on the floor, and that’s what makes him so much more difficult."
Rivers noted that against Washington, the Sixers focused on primarily slowing Westbrook and Beal down without worrying about Washington's supporting cast making them pay for having the two stars as a focal point of their defense.
With Atlanta, Rivers doesn't believe his team can play it the same way. “You just can’t leave like we did in the Washington series, and guys can go trap," Rivers explained. "You can’t do that against Atlanta. It’s gonna be a series of different coverages obviously from us. Different matchups for sure, and different looks on Trae individually.”
76ers veteran Danny Green will more than likely find himself guarding Trae Young at times throughout the series. Green's also aware that shutting Young down completely is a tall task. So, he'll instead focus on eliminating one of Young's strengths on the floor, forcing the Hawks guard to beat them by scoring in other ways.
“You want to take away their threes," Green explained. “You want to take away Trae’s threes, his penetration. Obviously, he makes plays at the rim with his floaters, but you can’t take away all three of them. He’s obviously very good at it. He’s very crafty for a reason.”
Unlike New York, the Sixers have a stable of solid wing defenders who they will throw at Trae Young throughout the series. It's not going to be easy to shut the third-year guard down, but they have the tools to slow him down, giving the Sixers a great shot at countering Atlanta's offensive attack in Round 2.