Hawks: Will Nate McMillan keep his same rotations for Game 3?

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The Hawks had the perfect opportunity to put an early end to the Knicks Cinderella story last night by going up 2-0 in the series before heading home for the next two games. They led 57-44 at the half, but their lead quickly disappeared thanks to some dismal shooting and questionable rotations. One of those (shooting) is likely to correct itself over the course of the series, but the other (rotations) is something McMillan seems hesitant to fix.

With over two minutes left in the third quarter, the Hawks’ two most consistent offensive pieces — Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic — headed to the bench. With ten minutes left in the fourth, the Knicks led by three, and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to insert Young and Bogdanovic, who had already been on the bench for over four minutes of game time, back into the game. The Knicks defense was suffocating, and the Hawks were struggling even to find good looks — let alone put the ball in the basket. They had only made one field goal since Young and Bogi exited, which came on a contested three from Danilo Gallinari. In every sense of the term — it was ugly.

Yet, McMillan decided to stick with his second unit out of the timeout, and what transpired next could have been the difference in the game. The Knicks went on a quick 7-0 run, stretching the lead to ten, and Madison Square Garden was in a frenzy, leading to a timeout. Young and Bogi sat out an almost full six straight minutes in a pivotal playoff game on the road, one that could have put the nail in the Knicks coffin. And of course, once the two came back in, the offense found some wheels, tying the game over the next four minutes, but things could have felt a lot different had they come in just a couple of minutes earlier. Instead, the Knicks never really lost control and eventually pulled away in the final moments, tying the series at one apiece.

After the game, McMillan was hounded with questions regarding his rotations, and his responses were… concerning.

In the regular season, this may be the case, but this is the playoffs. Guys play 40 minutes in the postseason like it’s clockwork, especially stars, and rarely are there any problems. Derrick Rose played 39 minutes last night — four more than Trae Young — and he looked just as good at the end of the game as he did at the beginning. Not to mention, both teams were coming off two days of rest. Not putting Young back in the game a couple of minutes earlier was a blatant mistake. At the very least, you’d like to see the coach own up to it and vow that it won’t happen again, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Hopefully, McMillan’s stubbornness with the media doesn’t translate to the court because if it does, it could be a difference-maker in the series. Rotations aren’t an exact science; sometimes momentum forces a coach’s hand and makes him put his star player in a little earlier than he would have liked. Yesterday was a prime example of that, and McMillan missed an opportunity that might have cost the Hawks the game. If it continues to happen, and the Hawks are bounced in the first round, perhaps the organization will have second thoughts about removing the interim tag.





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