I think I speak for every member of Hawks nation when I say it felt like a stake went right through my heart about thirty minutes prior to Game 4 when it was announced that Trae Young would not play because of the bone bruise he suffered during Game 3. Given the circumstances, it certainly felt like the Hawks’ miraculous run was coming to an end in the most Atlanta way possible, but once again, this team had a couple of more aces up their sleeve.
Game 4 was a total team effort, which is what it was always going to take to overcome the heavily favored Bucks without Trae Young. Lou Williams was magnificent, scoring 21 points on just nine shots from the field to go along with eight assists. Bogdan Bogdanovic finally woke up offensively, hitting six threes and ending the game with 20 points. Kevin Huerter and Clint Capela also chipped in 15 apiece, but the bench was just as critical in this one, and the production came from a couple of unexpected sources.
Nate McMillan has been outstanding during this playoff run, and last night was his best performance yet. He went away from Solomon Hill, who was providing next to nothing on the floor, and finally decided to trust Cam Reddish, who had only played in one game in four months entering last night. The gamble paid off; Reddish was a menace defensively, putting the clamps on Khris Middleton and coming away with a couple of steals, but the box score doesn’t show just how disruptive he was, constantly poking balls away and breaking the flow of the Bucks offense.
Reddish also looked incredibly comfortable on the offensive end. He was out of control at times, but he ended the game with 12 points on 5-9 shooting, and most importantly, the stage didn’t look too big for him. Reddish was aggressive from the moment he stepped on the floor on both ends of the court, and his energy in the second quarter gave the Hawks the boost they needed to run away with Game 4.
However, the former Duke star wasn’t the only unheralded member of the Hawks bench to come up huge in the win. Onyeka Okongwu might have been the most important player on the floor in the first half. His defense on Giannis, especially for a rookie, was nothing short of spectacular, and he also provided some offense, making all three of his shots and finishing with seven points.
A couple of months ago, nobody would have thought these two guys would be playing impactful minutes in the playoffs. Okongwu was barely receiving minutes during the regular season, and it looked doubtful that Reddish would even return this season. But here we are in the Eastern Conference Finals, and these two could be just what the Hawks needed to get them over the hump. Both are tremendous defensive presences, but offensively, they may be further along than we all thought. Because of that, the Hawks’ chances at an NBA title are as bright as ever — presently and for the foreseeable future. Just add them to the long list of ultra-talented young players on Atlanta’s roster that know what it takes to win and aren’t afraid of the moment.