The Hawks are coming off an impressive outing in the first game of the series. After beating the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games, Atlanta came out aggressive with PG Trae Young leading the way in Game 1. He finished with 48 points, one less than Bucks PF Giannis Antetokounmpo and SF Khris Middleton combined.
Here’s everything you need to know about Game 2 between the Bucks and Hawks.
(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Date: Friday, June 25 | Time: 8:30 p.m. ET Location: Fiserv Forum — Milwaukee, Wisconsin TV: TNT | Live stream: TNT Odds: MIL -350; ATL +290 | O/U: 226 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Bucks: The Bucks need to do a better job of limiting Trae Young’s production on offense. Sure, that’s easier said than done, and while there’s likely no stopping Young completely, Milwaukee could certainly make things more difficult on him than it did in the first game. There’s two adjustments that they can make to do that. First, they could try to trap Young off pick-and-rolls, as opposed to continuing to play him with single coverage. Yes, this approach could provide open shots for other shooters on Atlanta, but it would at least work to get the ball out of Young’s hands. When a player is as hot as Young was in Game 1, you have to try to make the other players on the team beat you, and the Bucks simply didn’t do that. Also, the Bucks should consider playing Brook Lopez less, in favor of other players that are better at defending on the perimeter. Lopez simply doesn’t have the foot speed to keep up with Atlanta’s players on the perimeter in switch situations, and the Hawks were able to exploit that. By going with a more switchable defender, the Bucks will be able to be more effective on defense against Atlanta.
Hawks: Atlanta’s motto right now should be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Hawks have had serious success all postseason relying heavily on Young in the pick-and-roll action, and so far no team has been able to contain it. The Knicks couldn’t do it, the 76ers couldn’t do it, and in Game 1, the Bucks couldn’t either. Sure, there’s something to be said about a varied offensive approach, but when you’ve had as much success as the Hawks have running a pet play, you might as well continue to run it until someone shows you that they can stop it. So far, that hasn’t been the case, so expect another heavy dose of Young in that action in Game 2. Prediction
Trae Young had a career performance in Game 1 with 48 points and 11 assists, and the Hawks still only won the game by three points. If the Bucks are able to limit Young’s production in any way in Game 2, they should have a solid shot at pulling out a win. Plus, after losing the first game in front of their home crowd, you have to think that there will be some added motivation on Milwaukee’s end not to lose two in a row at home. Pick: Bucks -7.5
Already down De’Andre Hunter, the Hawks have listed wing Bogdan Bogdanovic as questionable for Game 2 as he battles a knee injury. Bogdanovic was clearly hobbled and lacked any explosiveness to get past his defender in Game 1. He logged 27+ minutes, and just five in the final frame. If he can’t go, Danilo Gallinari will likely take his spot in the starting lineup.
All About Ice Trae
Has any player ever been as ready for primetime as the Hawks’ star guard? Trae Young just made history in Game 1, scoring the most points by any player in their debut in a Conference Finals. His final line was staggering: 17-for-34 from the field, 48 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
He also did it in style. His highlight pack was on fire: a behind-the-back dish to Kevin Huerter for three, the disrespectful shimmy when left wide open from the three-point line (more on that below) and his dazzling off-the-backboard ‘oop to John Collins for the flush.
Simply put, Young is the best player standing in the East, and he’s showing he can get the Hawks good looks each time down the floor.
Atlanta also stood up to the bigger Bucks — who were the top rebounding team in the playoffs, outrebounding them 51-45. While they held them to 8-for-23 from three, Milwaukee did pound the paint for 70 points. That’s something the Hawks will need to clean up some going forward.
Collins was a monster for the Hawks. After a quiet 6-point, 6-rebound first half, he erupted for 17 points and nine boards in the second half, including a crisp 8-for-9 from the field. Clint Capela also had 12 points and 19 boards, picking up the key go-ahead basket late in the fourth, after a clutch offensive board.
Deer in Headlights
Watching the Bucks play is about as frustrating as it can get. There’s a reason they started the Final Four as the favorites to win the NBA title — they’re that talented. But coach Mike Budenholzer refused to adjust to Atlanta’s high pick-and-roll with Young orchestrating. The Bucks like to drop their big man deep into the paint, which is death. They left Young with every option, which led to that wrecking-ball line.
Offensively, Milwaukee still stays true to their sets, and that apparently doesn’t involve seeking out Young in mismatches (think LeBron mercilessly finding Steph Curry and getting the switch to go to work), or even a hobbled Bogdanovic.
If they can tighten up defensively, it will likely mean going small, with Giannis seeing plenty of time at the five. The upside? When they abandoned Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis late in the third and almost all of the fourth, Milwaukee held Young to 1-of-9 from the floor, with two turnovers and three assists.
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