The Hawks followed up their Game 1 win in Milwaukee with back-to-back losses in totally different fashions. Friday’s Game 2 was over by halftime, as Atlanta trailed by 32 — a deficit no team had ever come back from in the playoffs. Monday’s Game 3 was much more competitive, but it was unfortunately affected by a freak incident late in the third quarter, resulting in an injury to Trae Young, who had 32 points at that point. Young was able to return but admitted after the game that the ankle was bothering him, which was overwhelmingly evident. Who knows what would have happened had that not occurred, but it wasn’t the only reason the Hawks lost. Atlanta led by seven with just over seven minutes to play, and Milwaukee dominated them down the stretch. The Bucks ended the game on a 25-7 run, leading to an 11-point victory.
Young was diagnosed with a bone bruise earlier today and is questionable for tomorrow’s game, but he’s not the only one dealing with injuries. Bogdan Bogdanovic still hasn’t looked like his usual self since he injured his knee in Game 6 against the 76ers, and of course, De’Andre Hunter remains out with a torn meniscus. Those injuries, along with a 2-1 deficit, have things looking bleak for the Hawks before tomorrow’s Game 4. But they’ve been in this position before — just last series against Philadelphia — and they’ve thrived. This will be an even more difficult task, but these Hawks have given us no reason to believe they can’t make magic happen.
I hate leading with this, but there’s no way around it; for the Hawks to win, they need both Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic to carry the load offensively. Young will likely pull his weight, as long as he’s cleared to play, but Bogdan Bogdanovic is equally as critical to turning this thing around. He’s the Hawks’ second-best offensive player, and he’s given them next to nothing in this series. It looked like Bogdanovic was moving better in Game 3; he certainly wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger but ended the night just 3-16 from the field and 2-10 from three. That’s not going to cut it, but if Bogdanovic is indeed feeling a little more comfortable with his knee, perhaps he can swing this series with his offense over the next few games.
Play Cam Reddish
Christian Salvador wrote an article about this earlier today, and I don’t know how you can’t agree with him. In Games 1-3, Solomon has basically just been on the floor getting cardio. He plays hard and is a fantastic team leader, but he doesn’t provide anything offensively, and he’s far from some defensive stopper, either. Cam Reddish’s length can give the Hawks much more defensively, and he is a far superior offensive player. I understand Reddish has only played one game in the last four months, but he looked pretty good, and it’s time for the Hawks to pull out all the stops, which includes playing their most talented players.
Feed John Collins
Outside of Trae Young, John Collins has been the Hawks’ most reliable offensive player. He went off in the Game 1 win, scoring 25 points to go along with 15 rebounds, and he has 24 points and 16 rebounds in his 47 minutes on the floor since. Foul trouble limited his minutes in Game 3, and he didn’t play in the fourth quarter of Game 2 because of how uncompetitive it was. Staying out of foul trouble in Game 4 will be critical, but when Collins is on the floor, the Hawks need to make active attempts to get him the ball in the post. Collins has been exceptionally effective in those situations against smaller defenders, which is why he’s shooting 66.5% in the series despite a 31.7% mark from behind the arc. With Trae Young unlikely to be 100%, getting Collins involved early and often will be essential.
Keep Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu on Giannis
The Greek Freak is just that — a freak. It’s pretty unbelievable to watch him just effortlessly reach over guys that are 6’10” in their own right and just place the ball calmly in the basket. However, he does have a glaring flaw — he can’t make much of anything outside of the paint. There’s no stopping Giannis; the Hawks can only hope to slow him down. To do that, they need their two best rim protectors on him for four quarters. Nobody else on the team can prevent him from getting easy baskets at the rim.
Assuming Young is anywhere close to 100%, the Hawks know what they will get out of him the rest of this series. We’ve also seen enough from John Collins over the last seven games to expect him to show up every night. But outside those two, who can come up with clutch buckets to put this team over the top? They got them in Game 5 against Philly from Lou Williams, and Kevin Huerter provided the heroics in Game 7. Who can do that for Atlanta in this series? They’ll need some help from unexpected places if they want to advance.
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