Trae Young on Heat's Defense: I Haven't Been Consistently Guarded Like This Since HS

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 25, 2022

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) tries to get past Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler in the first half of an NBA playoff basketball game Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
AP Photo/John Bazemore

The Miami Heat's defense is having an impact on Trae Young.

"I haven't been guarded like this ... since like high school," the Atlanta Hawks guard told reporters following Sunday's 110-86 loss. "Obviously, it's way better competition, so it's hard for me to score a lot more through the double-teams and face guards."

The Hawks had an opportunity to win a second straight at home and even the series at two games apiece, yet the contest was never in doubt thanks in large part to Miami's ability to cut off Young's penetration and swarm to any open looks.

He finished with just nine points and five turnovers on 3-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-10 from downtown. His inability to create any looks off drives proved key for both himself and teammates who typically thrive in the open space created by his presence.

"They're doing a great job of showing help and not letting me get into the paint," Young said. "When I'm driving, if I try to drive by somebody, they're sending a double and forcing me to kick it to my teammates. I took 11 shots and probably took a couple of forced ones at the end."

It stands in stark contrast to his performance in Friday's Game 3 when he finished with 24 points and eight assists in a 111-110 victory that included his winning shot in the final seconds.

Still, the Heat's defense on the two-time All-Star has been the story. While he scored 25 points in Game 2, he also finished with 10 turnovers. And Game 1 was even worse than Sunday's performance, as he posted eight points with six turnovers on 1-of-12 shooting from the field.

Miami finished the regular season fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, per NBA.com, so this is more of the same for the Eastern Conference's top seed.

Young's ability to take over games was the primary reason the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but their campaign will likely come to an end in Tuesday's Game 5 back in Miami if he can't figure out how to more effectively attack this defense.

It wasn't all defense for the Heat, as Jimmy Butler was brilliant on the other end as well with 36 points to go with 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals.