Who would have thought prior to the season that the Atlanta Hawks could go this deep in the playoffs? But for Trae Young and company, this isn’t far enough, and they will look to take the early series lead against the Milwaukee Bucks, whose confidence is on a high after eliminating the super team of the Brooklyn Nets.
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HOME TEAM: Milwaukee Bucks (0-0, 0-0 at home)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Jrue Holiday
- SG: Khris Middleton
- SF: P.J. Tucker
- PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- C: Brook Lopez
The Bucks looked like they were the deer in the headlights of the Brooklyn Nets early in the second round, but Giannis Antetokounmpo and company flipped the script and are now all set to play in the conference finals.
They wouldn’t be here without the production of Antetokounmpo who wasn’t just the best player for Milwaukee in the second round but their most consistent as well. Giannis, who helped put the Nets away by scoring 40 points in Game 7 of that series, is averaging 28.8 points on 53.3 FG% in the playoffs.
The question for Atlanta is who’s going to slow Giannis down? The Hawks beat the Philadelphia 76ers but they can’t say they held down Joel Embiid, and now, they have another unicorn to deal with — one who’s surrounded by better offensive players.
Speaking of which, the Bucks are finally seeing Khris Middleton rise to the occasion. He averaged 28.7 points with a 40 3FG% over the last three Milwaukee games.
The Bucks are 5-2 ATS in their last seven contests after scoring a victory.
ROAD TEAM: Atlanta Hawks (0-0, 0-0 on the road)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Trae Young
- SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic (questionable)
- SF: Kevin Huerter
- PF: John Collins
- C: Clint Capela
All things considered, the Hawks have already greatly overachieved. If them beating the New York Knicks didn’t turn many into believers of the team, Atlanta eliminating the Sixers in seven games in the second round surely did.
Trae Young has done an absolutely fantastic job of leading Atlanta. He will likely get shadowed by noted defender Jrue Holiday in the Eastern Conference finals, but that shouldn’t faze him a bit, considering that he survived the Knicks’ defense and the duo of Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle.
Still, the likes of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter, and Danilo Gallinari will be crucial in loosening the Bucks’ defensive focus on Young. Bogdanovic, in particular, will be a watched man in the series, as he nearly became a Buck in the offseason only to change course and sign with the Hawks. Young needs a consistent sidekick to help share the load on offense, and Bogdanovic checks the boxes for that role.
However, the Serbian’s status for the series opener is up in the air because of a sore knee, so keep an eye out for his availability.
The Hawks are 4-1 ATS in their last five games on the road against a team with a winning home record.
Spread: The hype is real on the Hawks with the public seemingly all over Atlanta for Game 1. But I’m going to go against the flow and bet on the Bucks to cover (-7.5). Giannis should dominate here with Brook Lopez having the potential to be a sneaky x-factor.
Over/Under: The Bucks’ rebounding will be a huge key for them in this series, especially on the offensive glass, where they should eat a lot of time off the game clock. Take the Under (226.5) for Game 1.