Milwaukee Vs Atlanta. Who would have guessed?
Milwaukee and Atlanta both moved onto the Eastern Conference Finals via a game seven win in the second round. Milwaukee winning in Brooklyn, and Atlanta emerging victorious in Philadelphia. Most of us have spent the last day or two basking in eliminating the Nets, but it’s time to shift our focus.
The Milwaukee Bucks took two out of three from the Atlanta Hawks during the regular season. Milwaukee had at least five players score in double figures in each of the three match-ups. The only loss Milwaukee suffered was on the end of a back-to-back with PJ Tucker sidelined. A big caveat, the Hawks were without Trae Young and Bogdanović during the first win of the series for the Bucks. In Milwaukee’s only loss they forfeited a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter when Atlanta got hot making 8 3-pointers in that span.
Milwaukee is favored for a reason.
As simple as it may sound, Giannis is going to be the difference maker in this series. Giannis averaged 22 points in the paint per game against the Nets and has a real shot to beat that against the Hawks. Giannis’ 154 total points in the paint over a seven game series is the second most in the last 25 post seasons. While the Hawks overall defense has been good, their interior defense has struggled. The Hawks rank 8th out of the 16 playoff teams allowing an average of 43.3 points per game in the paint. Milwaukee ranks number one allowing only 38.2.
Consistent rebounding is going to be another point of emphasis. The Hawks are allowing 12.6 second chance points this post season, compared to the Bucks’ 9.5. Milwaukee is also ranked number one this post season in; Defensive Rating (102.8), defensive rebounds (39.5), and defensive rebound percentage (79.2%). Milwaukee ranks number two this post season in opponents Fast Break Points (7.5 per game). If you have watched the Hawks play at all this season you have seen them score effectively and often on the fast break.
Khris and Jrue are going to be vital.
With the Hawks’ missing De’Andre Hunter for the rest of the offseason it is going to pose a real advantage for Khris and Jrue. De’Andre was the main defender during the regular season (and some might say their best perimeter defender). Collins and Capela will most likely split time guarding Giannis and Brook. Bogdanovic and/or Huerter will split time on Middleton, however given Bogdanovic’s injury status it will most likely be Huerter. Huerter may have the length but has shown little all season in defending the 3 levels of scoring that Middleton is capable of. Not to mention Khris is playing absolutely lights out and was making incredible shots over Durant and Harden regularly.
Holiday is one of the better on-ball defenders in the league and poses a threat that the Sixers didn’t have. The Sixers crowded the perimeter on defense during their series with the Hawks. The Milwaukee Bucks do the opposite by crowding the paint and letting their on-ball defenders make plays on the outside. PJ Tucker did this consistently against Durant (even if Durant was hitting every shot imaginable). Milwaukee guarding the paint will prevent many of Trae Young’s running floaters and force their shooters to make plays. If Brooklyn didn’t have a historic performance from Durant shooting from the perimeter, that series wouldn’t have gone seven games.
Still, Atlanta can not be overlooked.
Atlanta won three of four games in Philadelphia in a season where Philadelphia was absolutely dominant at home. Milwaukee has unexpected home court advantage in the eastern conference finals and it is vital they don’t lose it. Trae Young has been playing on another level in both scoring and passing. His famous running floaters, ridiculous three point shots, and lobs to Capela in the paint are huge reasons why Atlanta got past Philadelphia. Capela and Collins are going to do all they can to stop Giannis in the paint just like the did with Joel Embiid. The only problem with that is Joel Embiid averaged 30.4 points per game against that interior defense.
Atlanta is here for a reason and they cannot be taken lightly, but Milwaukee has all the right pieces to beat this team and move onto the NBA Finals.
Game 1: Bucks Win 112-98. Bucks take advantage of the extra rest and come out firing on all cylinders with the electric crown.
Game 2: Bucks Win 108-100. Atlanta makes a late fourth quarter push after adjusting to the first game but late game heroics seal the deal for Milwaukee.
Game 3: Hawks Wins 98-96. Atlanta feeds off their electric crowd and keeps this one a lower scoring game edging the Bucks in the final mintues.
Game 4: Bucks Win 110-102. Milwaukee simmers the crowd down right away with an early lead and keeps Atlanta at an arms reach all game long.
Game 5: Bucks Win the Series 115-105. Back at home Fiserv Forum is rocking and Milwaukee’s bigs dominate the paint to put this series away.
Bucks in 5.
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