The Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks will compete in the Eastern Conference Finals starting tomorrow in Milwaukee, with the winner of the best of seven series to make the 2021 NBA Finals.
The Bucks will be looking to make their first Finals appearance since 1974 and their first championship since 1971, whilst the Hawks will be looking to win their first championship since 1958.
It shapes as an interesting matchup as both teams are coming off tough seven game series in both Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Bucks will come in as heavy favourites as they defeated the championship favourites in the Brooklyn Nets in the previous round, but the Hawks have proven against the odds that they can compete with the best after defeating the top seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the previous round.
The Bucks' road to the Eastern Conference Finals has been impressive. Finishing with the number three seed in the Eastern Conference at the end of the regular season with a 46-26 record.
The Bucks would play the 2020 finalists in the Miami Heat first up, and defeated them 4-0 in an impressive display with the Heat unable to stop Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo who dominated the paint as he usually does, highlighted by a 31 point, 13 rebound and 6 assist performance in the Game 2 win.
They then played the two seed in the East, being the Brooklyn Nets which set up a mouth-watering matchup of Giannis versing Kevin Durant. The Bucks lost the first two games but won the next two at home, capitalising on the injuries to Nets stars in Kyrie Irving and James Harden. The series would go the distance to game seven, where Giannis pulled through for the Bucks with 40 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists to set up a clash with the Hawks in the next round.
Halfway there. pic.twitter.com/fotE2o69n2
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 23, 2021
The Hawks' road to the Eastern Conference Finals has been surprising to say the least, coming from the number five seed with a 41-31 record to upset the higher seeded New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers to make the conference finals.
Led by their star Trae Young, the Hawks were able to defeat the Knicks in five games in a quality display, highlighted by a 36 point, 9 assist performance by Young in the closeout game five to advance to the next round.
The Hawks would then face the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the conference semifinals, and showed great resilience erasing 18-point deficits in both games four and five to win both games. Trae Young starred in the series averaging 29 points and 10.9 assists throughout the seven games to set up an intriguing matchup with the Bucks.
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) June 23, 2021
Bucks won season series 2-1
- January 24, 2021 - Milwaukee 129, Atlanta 115
- April 15, 2021 - Milwaukee 120, Atlanta 109
- April 25, 2021 - Atlanta 111, Milwaukee 104
Things to watch in the series:
- The matchup of Trae Young and Jrue Holiday will be interesting as Holiday is an exceptional defender, being apart of the All-NBA Defensive first team two times including this current season, and will look to lock up the Hawks' main scoring threat. Trae Young has performed well however on great defenders, powering through Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle for the 76ers.
- It looks like there isn't a good matchup for Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Hawks who will likely send John Collins to him, which definitely benefits the Bucks. If the Hawks will have any chance of beating the Bucks, they will need to slow Giannis down significantly by keeping him out of the paint, making him shoot jumpshots and free throws, which have proven to be his main weakness.
- Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic suffered knee soreness towards the end of the 76ers series, but if he can overcome the soreness, it will cause the Bucks some headaches in trying to defend the three-point line, with Young, Bogdanovic, Huerter and Gallinari all great three point shooters. Bogdanovic had a game high 32 points the last time the two teams met.
The final word:
The Bucks are the more well rounded team and deserve to be the favourites. Holiday, Middleton and Giannis will be hard to stop, with PJ Tucker, Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton producing key roles to supplement their stars. The Hawks will need Trae Young to be his usual self but he will need help from Bogdanovic, Collins, Capela and Huerter. If the Hawks can shoot well from behind the arc, then they're a chance but the Bucks' depth and skill will trouble the Hawks and I think the Bucks will be too strong in the end.
Bucks In Six