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Bucks, 2021 NBA Playoffs

Bucks’ X-factor vs. Hawks in Eastern Conference Finals

It’s hard to imagine that anyone had cemented in the Milwaukee Bucks against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. And yet, that’s exactly where things have arrived at.

The Bucks took out a hobbled Brooklyn Nets squad in seven games while the Hawks won in Philadelphia in Game 5 and Game 7 to clinch their series. Now, the two meet for a spot in the NBA Finals.

Here is the Bucks’ X-factor against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Brook Lopez had an up and down series offensively for the Bucks against the Nets. He topped out at 19 points twice but also had games of three and six points scored. However, it’s not the offense that Milwaukee will need from Lopez to come out on top against Atlanta.

The Hawks’ bread and butter all postseason long has been the high pick-and-roll with Trae Young. He does a wonderful job of reading the defense once he navigates into the paint at which point he reads perfectly whether to toss up a floater or lob it up to Clint Capela. The Bucks have to focus in on this from Game 1.

New York got picked apart to death in round one by Atlanta’s pick-and-roll as Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson had issues figuring out the correct read coming from Young. It was much of the same against the 76ers with Young deciding at the last second on numerous instances whether to float the pass to Capela or John Collins or, shoot it himself.

It’s a staple of Atlanta’s offense and Brook Lopez will be the key for the Bucks in neutralizing it. With Lopez likely guarding Capela for much of the series when the two will be on the floor, it will be on Lopez to read and react precisely when Young dives into the paint. It’s far easier said than done but Lopez is capable of at least causing some disruptions inside the paint. If he can’t the Bucks may go to Giannis on the interior defense as he offers way more athleticism. From the start though, it will be Lopez and that’s why he’s the X-factor for the Bucks.