The NBA Playoffs have stumped lots of people. Few of the so-called experts predicted that either Atlanta or Milwaukee would make the Eastern Conference Finals. Both the Hawks and the Bucks relished their respective underdog roles by defeating the heavily favored 76ers and Nets in the conference semis.
Can Giannis Antetokounmpo finally get the Bucks over the hump and into the NBA Finals, or will Trae Young and the Hawks continue to shock the world as a Cinderella story? Here’s a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals with two keys for each team.
Key #1 for the Hawks: Get Trae Young Some Help
Atlanta has some nice pieces on their roster, but Young has had to be a bit of a one man wrecking crew as far as scoring. In fact, Young is averaging 29.1 points per game during the playoffs (ESPN). Unfortunately for the Hawks, the next highest scorer on the team is John Collins, who is only averaging 13.9 per contest.
The Hawks have some depth, as seven players are averaging in double figures this postseason. However, guys like Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovich, and De’Andre Hunter have to play at an even higher level if Atlanta is going to get past Milwaukee in this series.
Key #2 for the Hawks: Stay Hot on the Road
The Hawks were dreadful on the road during the regular season as they posted a record of 16-20 on the highway. However, they have turned things around nicely in the postseason by going 5-2 on the road so far. With Milwaukee enjoying home court advantage in this series, Atlanta must find a way to keep playing at a high level on the road.
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan has done a phenomenal job of figuring out how to fix his team’s road woes. It was impressive to see this young Hawks team steal the series away from Philadelphia by getting a dynamic Game 7 victory on the road. Hawks fans hope that momentum will continue tonight in Game 1 against the Bucks.
Key #1 for the Bucks: Keep Feeding the Greek Freak
Antetokounmpo has really come into his own during this postseason. The Bucks have to make sure they get the Greek Freak plenty of touches down low on the block. This Hawks defense will have trouble slowing down the 6-11 Bucks power forward.
The 26-year old Antetokounmpo is coming off back-to-back NBA MVP awards but is still looking for his first championship ring. The Greece native is averaging 28.8 points per game this postseason and the Bucks will lean heavily on him against the Hawks.
Key #2 for the Bucks: Keep Middleton Involved
The main difference between the Hawks and Bucks is that Milwaukee has a defined #2 scorer on their roster. Khris Middleton has played a huge role in the Bucks playoff success. The 6-7 small forward is averaging 23.3 points, 8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game during the postseason.
Middleton and the Bucks have been dominant at home all year long. In fact, Milwaukee has won 13 straight home games heading into tonight’s Game 1 matchup against Atlanta. Look for Middleton and Antetokounmpo to lead the Bucks to a victory tonight at Fiserv Forum.