Hawks: So far, Nate McMillan has outcoached Mike Budenholzer in the Eastern Conference Finals

Nate McMillan

Everyone in the media and gambling world gave the Hawks no chance against the Knicks, 76ers, and Bucks. Time and time again, this young and inexperienced team seems down and out but refuses to be put away. They’ve adopted the tough-guy mentality of their interim head coach, while the other teams have adopted their coaches’ personas and crumbled in the moment.

Nate McMillan was fired by the Pacers, where he was branded old school and inflexible. He took over in Atlanta when the Hawks were 14-20 and 11th in the Eastern Conference, and if I have to be honest, I was hesitant to put much faith in him. Boy, was I wrong. The Hawks went 27-11 to end the season and has had the best record in the East since.

McMillan has completely changed the identity of this team that now prides itself on the defensive end with maximum effort on and off-ball, finishing 11th in defensive rating and 15th in points allowed per game during the regular season. He’s also elevated Trae Young’s game, essentially helping control the Ferrari that Ice Trae is.

But more importantly, in the Eastern Conference Finals and most recently in Game 4, McMillan has shown to be the superior coach to Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer. Jake Fischer reported “there continues to be an expectation among league sources” that the third-year Bucks coach will be out if the team doesn’t make it to the NBA Finals. Milwaukee skated past a hobbled Nets team to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, but there were glaring coaching deficiencies on the Bucks’ sideline.

Even though Budenholzer seems to hide behind the “make or miss league” guise, the Bucks waste way too many possessions. They did it in the Nets series, and they’re doing it again against the Hawks. Before his injury, Giannis was settling for lousy shots outside the restricted area where he notoriously struggles. Not only does McMillan make in-game adjustments more effectively, but he also makes better adjustments in between games as well.

Knowing the lack of offense he’s gotten from Solomon Hill, McMillan turned to Cam Reddish to get an offensive boost as well as pressure the Bucks defensively — Reddish responded with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block in just 23 minutes of game time. Oneyka Okongwu was called upon and performed admirably against Giannis one-on-one. It seemed like McMillan had an answer for everything Bud was throwing at him before he even threw it.

One last piece that supports the notion McMillan is out coaching Budenholzer is that it seems like every game this series, the Hawks come out with visible passion and effort, while the Bucks come out with a sense of entitlement. It seems like Bud has ingrained in their heads they should win, and McMillan has done the opposite. The Hawks are more poised, more confident, and more hungry because of Nate McMillan.

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