Trae Young has had a fairytale start to his playoff career, but Jrue Holiday will be trying his level best to put a grinding halt to it.
This postseason has rewarded the 4 teams that have been able to stay the healthiest. While health will continue be an uphill battle in this Covid-shortened season, we’re now seeing 2 mostly healthy squads go up against each other.
The Hawks are missing a starter in De’Andre Hunter, while the Bucks are missing their 3-and-D specialist Donte DiVincenzo. Atlanta will also be without Cam Reddish, so their 3-and-D depth chart is significantly lower.
Health concerns aside, the major deciding factor in this series will be how well the Hawks can test the Bucks’ defense. Milwaukee has turned it up on that end in the postseason after a regular season in which their numbers fell off.
Their chief concern, as with both of Atlanta’s earlier opponents, will be to contain Trae Young. The 22-year-old has had an exemplary start to his postseason career, carrying his Hawks’ offense hard through multiple games. He’ll be facing his biggest test yet in 2 days.
Can Trae Young average 30 points against Jrue Holiday?
The Bucks will be expected to put Jrue Holiday as the primary defender on Trae Young. The duo have only faced each other once through 3 regular season games this year. Jrue came away as by far the better performer in their April 15 encounter.
This was a game where Trae shot a miserable 3-of-17 from the field. According to matchup data, Jrue guarded Trae for 8 of those shots, and he was successful in holding the 22-year-old scoreless on those possessions.
What’s even more impressive is probably the fact that Holiday didn’t even concede a single free throw to the former Oklahoma Sooner while guarding him through 7 minutes and 58 seconds of game time.
Now this doesn’t mean that the playoff battles will play out in similar fashion. Young is adept at navigating screen-and-rolls and getting his man on the back. There’s no way that Holiday can contain an explosive and fearless shooter like Young for the length of a whole series.
But what Holiday will definitely do is use his larger frame to navigate Capela’s picks. He’ll be anticipating Young’s pocket bounce passes to Clint, and he’ll also be using his physique to block off easy straight-line drives to the bucket.
This will make Young primarily reliant on the 3-point line and the free throw line for his scoring. But Holiday is also adept at defending without fouling, so Young’s trips to the line will be severely reduced in number.
All in all, this promises to be the defining matchup of the series. Most onlookers have upheld the Bucks as the de facto favorites, and with good reason. But Trae Young’s offensive form will dictate how long the series will truly go.