Well, it’s official. The Atlanta Hawks are heading to the Eastern Conference finals where they will face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Atlanta pulled off the unthinkable and upset the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, much in part to the sheer dominance of superstar guard Trae Young.
As for the Bucks, they won’t be short of confidence, either. After all, Mike Budenholzer’s team just knocked out the star-studded Brooklyn Nets to the surprise of a lot of people. As for the season series between these teams, the Bucks won two out of three against the Hawks.
Here are four bold predictions for this Bucks-Hawks matchup.
Giannis has his way with Atlanta
Brooklyn is no elite defensive team. But, they did manage to slow down Antetokounmpo to a certain extent. The weapons around him though, specifically Khris Middleton, were a big reason the Bucks came out on top in the series. But in the end, Giannis was still the leading catalyst in taking down a Nets team who were nabbed as a clear-cut favorite to win it all, injuries or not.
When it comes to the Hawks, however, they don’t have anyone who will be able to contain the Greek Freak. His physicality and length are an absolute nightmare for any opponent and Atlanta isn’t necessarily a big team. Giannis is averaging 28.8 points and 13.6 rebounds in the playoffs thus far and expect him to absolutely dominate again in this series. It’s a chance for Antetokounmpo to lead the Bucks to a possible title and he will be poised as ever to do so.
Bucks shut down Trae Young
Sorry Trae, you’re won’t be able to pick apart the No. 1 defense in the Association. After showing out through the first two rounds, Young isn’t going to have the same luck against the Bucks in the conference finals. Jrue Holiday is one of the best defenders in the league. PJ Tucker is an absolute pest. Middleton is capable of guarding players at a high level. There are numerous guys who can make life hard on the former Oklahoma standout.
Trae has been electric. There’s little doubt he’s still going to be productive. But, the Bucks pride themselves in defense and they know that he is the one who must be stopped in order to win the series. Milwaukee will put a focus on limiting Young’s production which is going to force him to try and find more open shooters out on the perimeter. His numbers are going to be impressive regardless, but there will be a dip across the board which could be enough to make the difference for the Bucks.
Jrue Holiday finds it offensively
Holiday has been a brilliant addition to Milwaukee on both ends of the floor this season. However, he has struggled on the offensive end in the playoffs, averaging just 15.2 points while shooting a dismal 25% from downtown. Although his assist and rebound numbers have still been solid, a lot more is expected of him from a scoring standpoint.
Good news though. The Bucks guard showed out against Atlanta in three appearances during the regular season, dropping 19 points, 4.7 boards, and 7.7 dimes. Holiday also shot 44% from three-point range in those games. Clearly, this is an opponent that he likes to play. It’s a sign of good things to come. Holiday is going to be an important piece in containing Trae Young like mentioned above, but he’s also going to finally thrive offensively.
Bucks win in 6
Atlanta’s cinderella run is going to come to an end. They eliminated a Knicks team who lacked any playoff experience then shocked the Sixers, who absolutely choked on numerous occasions throughout the series. Nothing should be taken away from what Nate McMillan has been able to do with this team. They went from an afterthought before the All-Star break to a contender.
But, the Bucks are going to end their dreams. It cannot be underestimated what Milwaukee just pulled off. Although Harden was playing hurt and Kyrie was out for the last few games, this is still a huge feather in the cap of the Bucks. The Nets were everyone’s title favorite.
This is the opportunity for Milwaukee to finally win a ring. Middleton and Giannis are thriving, while Holiday is going to break out. On both sides of the ball, the Bucks are a force to be reckoned with. They’re going to handle Atlanta and march their way into the finals in six games.
The Hawks just frankly don’t have enough to actually beat Milwaukee and that will prove to be a reality in the conference finals.