Five reasons why the Hawks can continue their success in Game 2 and beyond

Nate McMillan

The Hawks shocked most everyone outside of Atlanta on Monday night as they escaped Milwaukee with a 116-113 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s the Hawks’ third straight Game 1 win on the road this postseason, making them just the fourth team ever to accomplish the feat. Judging by what we’ve seen from this Atlanta team so far in these playoffs, nobody should doubt them any longer. They have as legitimate of a shot of any team remaining at winning a championship, and I have five reasons why their success will continue in Game 2 and beyond in this series.

Trae Young

This one couldn’t be more obvious, but there’s a reason I am no longer nervous when the Hawks play on these pressure-packed stages. Trae Young is a bonafide superstar; he’s one of the five best point guards in basketball, and I know the team is in good hands as long as he has the ball. What he did on Monday night might very well have been the best performance EVER in an Eastern Conference Finals, as he racked up 48 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds. It’s the most points ever in a player’s first Conference Finals game, and Young became the first player ever to have 45+ points and 10+ assists in a Conference Finals. It was just a silly performance by one of the game’s best, and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he replicated it a couple of times before these playoffs are over.

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Bucks have to go small

Trae Young’s dominance went further than just the stat sheet. He madeĀ Brook Lopez, who finished last night -14 in 20 minutes, unplayable. I expect the Bucks to mix up their starting lineup and go small for Game 2, and we might not see much of Lopez the rest of the series. That should open up things forĀ John Collins, who had a huge second half last night and finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds. It could also allow Capela to feast on the boards as he did in Game 1, racking in a playoff career-high 19 rebounds.

Turnover battle

In the first half, the Hawks were extremely sloppy, turning the ball over eight times, which is why the Bucks built a five-point lead. The Hawks were able to limit that number to three in the second half — a primary reason why they were able to come back. Still, they lost the turnover battle by three and came away with the win on the road. That’s an encouraging sign if they can win in that area moving forward.

The Hawks still haven’t shot it well

As someone who has watched this team all season, it’s crazy the Hawks are in this position, considering how poorly they have shot the ball from behind the arc. Once again, they shot 25% from three in their Game 1 triumph, and it feels like there’s just no way they can continue to shoot this miserably moving forward. Eventually, some of these shots from deep will start falling consistently, and that’s when this group becomes really dangerous. A lot of this will depend on Bogdanovic, who has been a shell of himself since Game 6 of the Hawks series against Philly. But even if he can’t contribute like he’s used to, Atlanta has several other guys that can hit three-pointers. Eventually, shots will start falling, and the Bucks will be in even more trouble.

Nate McMillan

Even if you’re not a Hawks fan, how can you not appreciate what McMillan has been able to accomplish with this team? He took over when they were 14-20 and has turned them into a juggernaut. However, in particular, he’s made them a supremely confident team when the game is close in the fourth quarter. The Hawks have been dominant at the end of games under McMillan, winning 13 of their 15 contests in games decided by five points are less since he was named head coach. That’s not a coincidence; McMillan is working wonders, constantly reminding the guys not to get too high or too low until the final buzzer sounds. He’s also pulling all the right strings during the game. This man can coach circles around Mike Budenholzer, and I expect him to throughout this series.

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