Brad Stevens Defends Celtics’ Effort Guarding Trae Young

Getty Images Jaylen Brown of the Celtics fouls Trae Young of the Hawks

The Boston Celtics will look to avenge their loss against All-Star Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks, Friday night.

Fresh off his 40-point masterpiece, where he scored 25 second-half points that kept the Celtics at bay in a 122-114 loss at TD Garden, Young was and will be a handful for head coach Brad Stevens. Following Wednesday’s loss, Stevens talked about his team’s defense against Young ad nauseam, along with Boston’s overall team-defense, of late.

“I thought that we tried a bunch of different guys on him,” Stevens said. “Obviously, we switch a lot to try to guard the 3-point line on the other side to take away pops, to take away opportunities for him to turn the corner and either spray it for lobs or spray it around. And at times, I thought we did a decent job of that; we also missed some and he made us pay when we missed.”

Brad Stevens On Trae Youngs 40-Point Performance: ‘If He Gets 30, You’re Right There’

Similar to game-planning for the likes of Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid or Denver Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic, the Celtics coaching staff’s approach to slowing Trae down was no different. The margin for error is minuscule; a few made or missed shot attempts is the difference between a win and a loss.

“I thought the Jokic game was a little different, right? He did some stuff that I thought that we guarded about as well as you can guard a guy” Stevens said. “But, then today, it was like the Embiid game, right? If he gets 42 (points); he crushes you. If he gets 30; you’re right there — that’s more of what we were looking for with Trae. We tried all of our guards, our guys off the bench were all on him and he’s just a tough cover.”

Stevens’ most controversial call of the evening came in the final frame when he decided to keep backup veteran Jeff Teague in the same backcourt against Young; one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. Celtics rookie Payton Pritchard, who was a viable option for Stevens, at the time, had racked up five fouls, at the time.

Brad Stevens On Jeff Teague: ‘Was Good As Anybody We Had Guarding Him’

Still, Stevens’ decision came into question.

“Part of that was the matchup,” Stevens explained. “In the first half, Payton scored it, a little bit. They were targeting him a little bit but that’s a great experience for him because he’s getting some of that; he’s going to have to learn to deal with that. And then Jeff, I thought Jeff, just as far as those individual possessions when he was guarding Trae in the pick-and-roll, was probably as good as anybody we had guarding him in the pick-and-roll.

“Payton wouldn’t have lasted long with those five fouls if he kept guarding Trae Young, going back into the game.”

Celtics’ Adjustments Ahead Of Rematch Vs. Hawks

So, what’s going to happen Friday? Marcus Smart, Boston’s defensive anchor, especially in the backcourt, is still ways away from making his return but Stevens will be happy to, at least, see Kemba Walker back in the lineup.

Resting on the second night of a back-to-back, Walker’s offense will, hopefully, help neutralize Young’s persistent attack for Stevens will dissect Wednesday’s game and treat Friday as if it’s Game 2 in a best-of-7 series.

“(It) will obviously be a little different,” Stevens said. “You want to change things, you want to treat this as an opportunity to look at a team like in the second game of a playoff series — those types of things. I don’t know if they’ll have new guys available but we will as there will be some changes there.”

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