Hawks vs. Bucks Preview and Prediction

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It may be true that I’ve picked the Hawks in both their playoff series (I am a homer, after all); however, if you had asked me a couple of months ago if Atlanta had a realistic chance to make the Eastern Conference Finals, I probably would have told you to lay off the weed in my Stephen A. Smith voice. But Trae Young and company have taken haymakers to the face and responded with magic every time it feels like they should be counted out.

Their latest victory — Game 7 in a Philadelphia — was the first time the Hawks had won a Game 7 on the road in franchise history (ten tries), and it just happened to come against the top-seed in the Eastern Conference that has been one of the best home teams in the NBA over the last several seasons. Oh, and did I mention the Hawks essentially did it without two starters. Atlanta is as resilient of a team as they come, and for that reason, they can never be counted out — even against the heavily favored Bucks.

How will the Hawks defend Giannis Antetokounmpo?

One of my worst fears has officially been realized. I now have to put in the time and effort to learn how to spell Antetokounmpo, but that’s not nearly as difficult of a task as the Hawks will have beginning on Wednesday. The Greek Freak is a back-to-back MVP that is almost unstoppable anytime he can get downhill. However, he does have an Achilles heel — he can’t shoot, and we’ve seen great coaches exploit that weakness in the postseason. I would qualify Nate McMillan as one of the best coaches in the NBA, considering what he’s been able to do with the Hawks in the regular season and now in the playoffs. However, this will be his most formidable challenge to date.

Atlanta has numerous bodies they could throw at Antetokounmpo, and I believe it starts with Clint Capela. He’s the team’s best rim protector, and I think McMillan will sag off of the Greek Freak, allowing him to shoot as much as he’d like. The focus for the Hawks will be forming a wall around the rim, preventing easy baskets. If Capela can’t get the job done, they could also turn to someone a bit more agile like John Collins, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Onyeka Okongwu or Danilo Gallinari received some opportunities to defend Antetokounmpo. Okongwu, in particular, has been electric on the defensive end in limited action and could play a much more significant role in this series than he has all season.

Can Jrue Holiday slow down Trae Young?

As I’ve said before, there’s no stopping Trae Young; you can only slow him down. Even in his worst shooting performance of the playoffs, he recorded 20+ points and 10 assists, making several critical plays down the stretch to lead the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals. Young’s confidence never wavers, making him a handful for any team to defend every night. With that being said, Jrue Holiday is an elite defensive player. He possesses the quickness to stay in front of Young, and most importantly, he defends without fouling, which is critical, given Young’s ability to get to the free-throw line. In the one game that Young did play against Milwaukee this season, he had one of his worst shooting performances and scored just 15 points. When Holiday was guarding him, Young was 0-8 from the field. Now, I certainly don’t expect him to play like that in this series, but it does show the type of problems Holiday can create defensively.

Which Bogdan Bogdanovic will the Hawks get?

To me, this is the key to the series. Bogdan Bogdanovic blossomed into the Hawks second-best player down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs. In 44 games, he shot 47.3% from the field, 43.8% from three, and 90.9% from the free-throw line while playing well above-average defense. However, he was removed from the Hawks Game 6 loss to the Sixers with a knee injury and was a shell of himself in Game 7, which eventually led to him sitting out for most of the fourth quarter. Hopefully, the couple of days off do him some good because, with a healthy Bogdanovic, this Hawks team has enough shooting to makes things extremely difficult for Milwaukee in this series. But if he’s not providing his typical offensive output, life will be tough for Atlanta offensively.

How will the Hawks deal with the Bucks length?

Like the Knicks and the 76ers before them, the Bucks are another incredibly long team. I’m not too conferenced with them offensively. Nate McMillan should be able to come up with an excellent defensive game plan, and at times, Milwaukee is their own worst enemy on that side of the ball. However, buckets — especially if Bogdanovic isn’t anywhere close to 100% — will be challenging to come by in each game. The Hawks must also emphasize the boards once again because they can get dominated in that area if not.

Depth will be key

I was going through other network’s predictions for this series, and someone actually wrote the words the Bucks are the deeper team, causing me to spit out my drink. That’s nowhere close to accurate. Milwaukee may have more star power, but they only played six players more than five minutes in their Game 7 against the Nets. Their bench compared to the Hawks is atrocious, especially if Bogdanovic is healthy. Gallinari, Lou Williams, and Onyeka Okongwu have all been critical during Atlanta’s playoff run, and they will have to be at the top of their game if the Hawks want to upset the Bucks.


At this point, I’m not surprised by anything the Hawks do, and unlike the national media, I’m not exactly impressed by the fact that it took the Bucks seven games to beat a hobbled Brooklyn team that was getting next to nothing outside of Kevin Durant. The Bucks provide many of the same problems that the Sixers do, but I actually think McMillan can game plan better against Giannis than he was able to against Embiid. Holiday and Middleton are capable scorers but go cold far too often, which is oftentimes the story of the Bucks offense. I also believe the depth of the Hawks will be a problem for Milwaukee’s second unit, especially if this series goes six or seven games. It may not be my most confident pick, but Atlanta has the feel of a “why not us” kind of team, and if Bogdanovic is healthy, they have enough offensive firepower to beat this Bucks team.

Hawks in 6

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