Turnover-happy Trae Young, Hawks fuel Bucks’ transition attack in Game 2 blowout


Hawks coach Nate McMillan had a simple, yet accurate, assessment of the Bucks’ performance on Friday night: “They totally just dominated the entire game.”

The 2021 NBA playoffs have featured spectacular scoring swings and crazy comebacks, but Milwaukee ensured that Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals would be a snoozer, steamrolling Atlanta on its way to a 125-91 win. The Bucks had built a 32-point lead by halftime, their third-largest halftime lead in postseason history, and held a 40-point advantage at the end of the third quarter. Only one starter for each team eclipsed 30 minutes played, as the final frame turned into an opportunity for end-of-the-rotation guys to take the floor.

MORE: Giannis Antetokounmpo not upset about Trae Young’s shimmy

For all intents and purposes, Game 2 was wrapped up after 24 minutes, and there was one primary culprit for much of Atlanta’s first-half woes. The Hawks just couldn’t stop giving the ball right back to the Bucks, which allowed them to get easy buckets on fast breaks.

Milwaukee scored 22 points off turnovers in the first half, the most points off turnovers in a single half this postseason. In the second quarter, Atlanta had more turnovers (eight) than scoring possessions (seven).

Game 2 (first half) Total points Turnovers Points off turnovers Fast break points
Bucks 77 6 22 20
Hawks 45 13 10 5

“We don’t talk about turnovers per se, to be honest with you. We talk about being solid, being active, having hands,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said during his postgame media availability. “And sometimes, when you’re really active and you’re really good defensively, then turnovers sometimes are just naturally happening.”

The Bucks were certainly more aggressive defensively in Game 2 than in the series opener. Hawks star Trae Young, who went off for 48 points in Game 1, scored just 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting and had nine turnovers. Jrue Holiday hounded Young all over the floor, and Milwaukee’s bigs didn’t drop as far back on screening actions, giving Young less room to operate.

“I think just mix it up, make it difficult for him, not get too many easy looks,” Holiday said of the defensive effort on Young. “The last game he was living in the paint, had a lot of floaters. Those are pretty much layups for him, so we didn’t really want that to get him started early.” 

While Milwaukee deserves credit for its level of intensity and attention to detail, Atlanta was also extremely careless with the ball. Hawks players were far too casual with their passes, often turning their possessions into a transition drill for Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates.

Atlanta only averaged 13.2 turnovers per game during the regular season and 12.1 per game in the playoffs entering Friday’s contest. By the end of Game 2, the Hawks had committed 19 turnovers, many of them being of the live-ball variety. That’s simply not a winning formula against this Milwaukee squad.

After watching Young light up the scoreboard in Game 1, the Bucks set the tone early and never let up, sending the Hawks a message in a blowout victory.

“They showed us that there’s another level that we have to get to, play at, in order to win games and advance,” McMillan said.

Atlanta can’t reach that level if it keeps coughing up the ball before it gets there.

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