The Warriors used a ‘gimmick’ defense to stop Trae Young

The Warriors used a ‘gimmick’ defense to stop Trae Young

SAN FRANCISCO — Stephen Curry has seen his fair share of interesting counterattacks over the years. After getting torn apart by his second-coming Monday night, the Warriors flipped the script to slow down Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young.

With Gary Payton II hounding Young, Golden State employed the tried-and-true — but admittedly a little gimmicky — box-and-one defense, stashing defenders at four corners of the key while Payton did his best to deny Young the ball.

“We hit him with a box and one. As soon as he got off it, I wouldn’t let him catch it,” Payton said. “So we kind of limited him in the second half and made other people score.”

The Hawks’ young firebrand matched Curry shot-for-shot in the first half with 21 points and helped facilitate a 65-point first half for Atlanta with seven assists. But while the Warriors’ offense kept whirring in the second half, Golden State took Young out of the game and disrupted Atlanta’s entire attack en route to a 127-113 win.

The Warriors limited Young to seven points on six attempts from the field and only two assists after halftime. The Hawks’ 48 second-half points couldn’t keep pace with the flurry from Curry, who finished with 50 to Young’s 28.

“I think we tried a little gimmick defense of our own to try to slow their rhythm down a little bit,” Curry said. “It worked. A night like (Monday) you’ve got to be able to make those adjustments on the fly, especially against a player as dynamic as he is and was in the first half.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 8: Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) hugs Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young (11) following the Warriors 127-113 win at the Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Young was Payton’s primary responsibility.

Curry, for once, got to experience the box-and-one treatment from the other side.

“I loved it,” he said. “It’s great to be on the elbow instead of trying run around myself.”

Slowing Young still proved to be a challenge — Payton eventually fouled out — but it was the kryptonite to Atlanta’s offense. The 23-year-old is a threat to pull up from anywhere but an equally adept passer, who’s not afraid to thread the needle to lob threats like Clint Capela and John Collins. The offense runs through his hands, which are almost always in control of the ball if things are going right.

“As they say, take the head off the snake,” mused Damion Lee. “He has the ball in his hands and he was kind of getting everything. He was able to get into the lane, get his floaters and get the lob, so it was a matter of trying to contain that in the second half.”

Admitted coach Steve Kerr, “Trae was spectacular, especially in that first half, he was destroying us.”

The decision to resort to the eccentric package, which forces a single offensive player to attack a four-man zone defense while facing an on-ball defender, came on the fly as Golden State cycled through defensive strategies to contain Young.

“We just changed it up and tried to show them different looks,” Payton said. “We saw there were having trouble scoring with the box-and-one without him in the actions and creating for others, so we stuck with it. … I’m pretty sure it’s like 95% of all their action comes from him, initiated by him, so just get him off it and don’t let him touch it and make other guys make plays for them.”

Kerr called the turnaround to hold the Hawks to 48 points after halftime a “huge success.”

Atlanta’s 113 points were the most allowed by the Warriors since their first two games.

They’ve since established themselves as the top-rated defensive team in the NBA, with 98.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, a title that didn’t take as much of a hit Monday as it first appeared, thanks to their second-half adjustments.

“We expected them to come in and play well, and they did,” Kerr said. “It really required a great defensive effort in the second half along with Steph’s incredible individual performance.”

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