Thad Young Key to Containing Love, Keeping Defense Together

April 17, 2018 - Thaddeus Young discusses how he limited Kevin Love to eight shots in Game 1, while Nate McMillan and Victor Oladipo discuss Young's value to the Pacers.

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Thad Young Key to Containing Love, Keeping Defense Together

April 17, 2018 - Thaddeus Young discusses how he limited Kevin Love to eight shots in Game 1, while Nate McMillan and Victor Oladipo discuss Young's value to the Pacers.
Apr 17, 2018  |  02:34

Bogdanovic Up for Challenge of Guarding LeBron

April 17, 2018 - Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic may not be known for his defense, but he has admirably stepped up this season when asked to guard four-time MVP LeBron James.
Apr 17, 2018  |  02:56

Thad Young's Defensive Versatility Gives Pacers Options

by Greg Rappaport
Pacers.com Writer
@Greg_Rappaport

From the moment Sunday's game began, what had been speculated about as a potential defensive matchup became a reality, as Indiana's versatile Thaddeus Young lined up against Cleveland's Kevin Love.

Because Cleveland starts small, playing Love (6'-10") at center and Jeff Green (6'-9") at power forward, Indiana was able to use Young's defensive elasticity as a weapon to slow down the Cavs during the series-opening win.

With Young doing his best to stay attached to Love, who is known for his 3-point shooting (41.5 percent), the Pacers were able to avoid getting burned from beyond the arc, as Cleveland struggled to shoot the ball all game, making just eight shots from long range. Love, who has averaged 17 points per game on 12 field goals this season, was largely held in check, scoring nine points on eight shots.

"He's been matched up with Kevin pretty much all season long," explained Pacers head coach Nate McMillan at practice on Tuesday. "It's not just one guy defending these guys out there, it's Indiana defending Cleveland, and it starts with just trying to keep them in front. Not allowing them to get clear looks. These guys can put up big points, and Thad and the rest of our guys did a good job, really just staying solid."

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The potential downside of switching Young onto Love to start the game was the danger of having Myles Turner matchup defensively with the quicker Jeff Green. But Green was unable to do anything with the mismatch on Sunday, missing all seven of his field goal attempts, three of which came from 3-point range.

On the whole, it was one of Indiana's best defensive performances of the season, as they finished the game having held Cleveland to a meager 80 points — the lowest total the Pacers have allowed this season.

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Cleveland, which sports the fifth-rated offense in the league (per NBA.com/stats), is likely to make some adjustments to get more room for Love to operate on offense. But for Young, the strategy for keeping Love in check remains the same.

"Just making him put the ball on the floor and making him drive the basketball, I think that's one of the biggest things," explained Young. "If he has to turn his back to you, then it's a better ball game for me. But if he's able to face you up and size you up and be able to get his shot off, and be able to have five, six, seven dribbles on the postup, then it makes it harder to guard him."

Young, who stands at 6'-8" and sports one of the largest wingspans on the team, has has drawn tough assignments all season and has proven to be a linchpin to Indiana's defense.

"I call him the glue," McMillan said of Young. "He's the guy whose playing spread fours at times, guys who are playing on the perimeter, he plays guys who play in the post, and Love basically does both of those things. And you gotta have a guy that has that versatility to guard the perimeter as well as guard in the paint. And Thad has been able to do that, so that's allowed us to matchup with most teams."


Thad Young

During two games against the 76ers late in the season, Young was the primary defender against the lengthy Ben Simmons. In the two matchups, both of which the Pacers won, Young helped hold the star rookie to a combined 8-of-23 from the field.

Against the Bucks on March 2nd, Young drew the assignment of guarding Giannis Antetokoumpo, whose height and reach tend to make normal NBA players look like middle schoolers. But Young did his best to slow the Greek Freak, who went just 6-of-18 from the field during the 103-96 Pacers victory.

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Young's wingspan and active hands have allowed him to rise near the top of the NBA's "hustle stats", where he ranks fourth in deflections per game.

"He's been solid for us all season long and been one guy that's been there all season long," McMillan said. "And we really call him the glue to the team."

Young, who started his career on the Philadelphia 76ers, credits some of his defensive attributes to then-teammate Andre Iguodala, who Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has called a glue guy as well.

From Iguodala, Young learned the importance of keeping position rather than lurching for a steal.

"In my early years, I used to gamble a lot and try to get steals, and it would get me out of position," explained Young. "(Iguodala is) one of the guys who actually taught me very well as far as staying solid and just being in your positions."

Young also credits his defensive growth to then-76ers assistant coach Aaron McKie.

From McKie, who is now an assistant coach at Temple, Young learned to do his work early. Not in the sense of getting to the arena on time, but in regards to establishing defensive position before the offense gets into its motions.

"Being in your spots, being in your gaps, seeing the play before it actually starts," said Young. "Understanding personnel and details. I think that's one of the biggest things."

Victor Oladipo, who led the the NBA in steals this season, sees Young's prowess on defense as invaluable.

"He does the little things that go unnoticed, but we notice it," Oladipo said.

When FOX Sports Indiana's Jeremiah Johnson asked if the term "Glue Guy" might be underselling Young's contributions to the Pacers this season, Oladipo nodded in agreement.

"Super, super glue," Oladipo said with a smile.

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