It's not easy to guard a player of Trae Young's caliber. No matter who the defender is, the Atlanta Hawks star will find ways to make the matchup extremely difficult. Many assumed Sixers head coach Doc Rivers would assign one of his top two perimeter defenders in Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle to guard Young, but Rivers instead rolled with Danny Green on the young star for most of the first half on Sunday.
For that, the Sixers paid a steep price. Being on the court for 17 minutes in the first half, Trae Young dominated Philly's defensive attack. As he knocked down eight of his 13 shots and went a perfect 5-5 from the free-throw line, Young collected 25 of Atlanta's 74 first-half points in Game 1 on Sunday.
As expected, the Sixers adjusted to Young's attack in the second half. Instead of having Danny Green on him exclusively, the Sixers sent Ben Simmons to play on him at times. The plan to slow Young down in the second half worked as well as it could, but at that point, it was too late for the Sixers, who played catch-up all game long.
“It was way too late,” said Sixers standout guard Ben Simmons. “We weren’t physical or aggressive enough. I started the second half on him and used my size. I feel like that disrupted him a little bit, but we got to get started like that. From the first quarter to the last. We waited way too long.”
Simmons is typically known to take on the challenge of guarding each team's best player night in and night out. Considering Rivers didn't want his All-Star guard to land in foul trouble early on by guarding Young, he opted to put his trust in Green.
But Simmons doesn't want that to be the case in Game 2. “I probably will do that," Simmons said when asked about potentially guarding Young more on Tuesday. "I mean, I want to. So, if the refs ain’t gonna call so many fouls, I can be physical and be six-ten, then I’ll be six-ten. We’ll see.”
Trae Young and the Hawks will return to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night to face Simmons and the Sixers for Game 2 of the second-round series. While Philly played much better in the second half of the first matchup, they can't allow Young and the Hawks to get off to another red-hot start if they want to even the score of the series before hitting the road for a two-game stint in Atlanta.