It is an Jap Convention matchup nobody predicted, with the upstart Hawks — famously 14-20 earlier than naming Nate McMillan the interim head coach and jump-starting their run to the playoffs — taking up two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, who wanted extra time in Sport 7 to beat the Brooklyn Nets.
What can Younger and the Hawks do on offense towards one of the best protection within the league? Does Atlanta have a solution for Giannis?
Our specialists break down every workforce’s path to the collection and the keys that would resolve who reaches the NBA Finals.
How the Bucks acquired right here:
The Bucks spent the previous seven months constructing as much as the purpose the place, once they acquired into the crucible of a troublesome playoff collection, they’d have the means to stroll out the opposite aspect victorious.
They traded for level guard Jrue Holiday within the offseason and P.J. Tucker on the deadline, including defensive versatility and toughness. They spent the season experimenting extra with totally different lineups and types to have totally different choices to throw at opponents within the postseason.
And, finally, Milwaukee finds itself internet hosting Atlanta on Wednesday evening in Sport 1 of the Jap Convention finals as a result of it proved to have simply sufficient to try this.
It took each ounce of what the Bucks had — plus some key accidents to the Nets, and Kevin Durant sporting a shoe an extra size too big — for Milwaukee to flee from its heart-stopping Jap Convention semifinal collection towards Brooklyn, successful Sport 7 on the highway in extra time Saturday evening.
The Bucks and Nets go right down to the wire in a wild fourth quarter and extra time as Milwaukee comes out on prime and advances to the Jap Convention finals.
Issues appeared as in the event that they is perhaps completely totally different for the Bucks this season when, after surviving one other extra time thriller to start the playoffs with a victory over the Miami Heat — the workforce that humbled them within the NBA’s bubble on the Walt Disney World Resort final summer season — Milwaukee clobbered Miami over the following three video games to brush the Warmth out of the playoffs.
It was a dominant efficiency, and unexpectedly so, given the Warmth had been a well-liked upset decide. However it gave Milwaukee loads of momentum going into its collection with Brooklyn.
Then, 43 seconds into the Jap Convention semifinals, James Harden limped off the Barclays Middle courtroom with a hamstring pressure, eradicating considered one of Brooklyn’s Huge Three from the equation. However not solely did the Nets survive Sport 1 with a win however they annihilated Milwaukee in Sport 2, sending the Bucks residence going through the actual chance of the entire work the workforce had executed to arrange for this second going for naught.
Milwaukee held serve at residence, although, night the collection at two wins apiece, and the Nets caught one other unhealthy break when Kyrie Irving sprained his proper ankle in Sport 4. Nonetheless, Brooklyn pushed Milwaukee to the brink as soon as once more in Sport 5, due to the mix of Harden making a surprising return to the courtroom (and taking part in 46 minutes) and Durant placing collectively a efficiency that prompted Antetokounmpo to name Durant “one of the best participant on this planet.”
However after struggling the sort of heartbreak that may have damaged prior Bucks groups, Milwaukee confirmed precisely why it had spent all that point constructing. The Bucks went again residence and gained but once more on their residence courtroom in Sport 6, solely to return again a number of instances in that Sport 7 to only barely survive one other spectacular Durant efficiency, a fairly particular considered one of his personal from Antetokounmpo and a few well timed shot-making from Khris Middleton and Vacation.
Now, largely wholesome — save for Donte DiVincenzo, out for the playoffs after ankle surgical procedure — Milwaukee is the favourite to win its first NBA title in a half-century. First, although, the Bucks might want to get previous the upstart Hawks, which might get them into the Finals for the primary time since 1975.
— Tim Bontemps
How the Hawks acquired right here:
The fifth-seeded Hawks simply will not go away. It was like that of their first-round matchup towards the New York Knicks, and it continued into their collection towards the Philadelphia 76ers. It took them seven video games, however they had been in a position to come away with three highway victories over the Sixers to advance to solely their second convention finals in 50 seasons.
Trae Younger continued his stellar play within the playoffs, averaging 29.0 factors — almost twice as many as John Collins (15.1), who was second on the workforce — in addition to 10.9 assists. Younger turned the primary participant in NBA historical past to have 12 consecutive playoff video games with at the least 20 factors and 7 assists. He did so in his first 12 playoff video games ever. Fairly the beginning.
Collins’ play has additionally been necessary for Atlanta all through the playoffs. In all three video games when Collins has scored in single digits within the playoffs, the Hawks have misplaced. In opposition to the Sixers, Collins additionally got here away with 10.0 rebounds per sport.
Trae Younger and the Hawks outlast the 76ers in Sport 7 to advance to the Jap Convention finals vs. the Bucks.
Earlier than the collection towards Philadelphia, it was introduced that ahead De’Andre Hunter was going to overlook the rest of the playoffs due to a torn meniscus that required surgical procedure. With Hunter out, the Hawks initially went with Solomon Hill within the beginning lineup earlier than shifting on to Kevin Huerter.
It was Huerter who got here up the most important in Atlanta’s series-clinching win in Sport 7. After going scoreless in Sport 5 in Philadelphia simply two video games earlier, Huerter went for a playoff-career-high 27 factors in the identical constructing the place he set his total profession excessive (29) as a rookie in 2018-19.
Huerter stated Joel Embiid even joked with him throughout Sport 7 about how effectively he performs on the Wells Fargo Middle.
Together with Younger, Collins and Huerter, the Hawks continued to get double-digit scoring efforts within the collection from Danilo Gallinari (14.7), Bogdan Bogdanovic (13.3) and Clint Capela (10.6) — and that does not even embody Lou Williams, who averaged double digits in 24 regular-season video games with Atlanta and had 13 second-half factors in a vital Sport 5 win over Philly.
So whereas Atlanta will as soon as once more attempt to lean on Younger, the balanced effort behind him would be the Hawks’ greatest guess in the event that they need to make their first journey to the NBA Finals since 1961.
— Andrew Lopez
Sequence keys: The Bucks’ Trae stopper, and why the Hawks must thrive downtown
In his solely matchup towards Milwaukee this season, on April 15, Younger had arguably his worst sport of the season: 3-for-17 from the ground — 0-for-3 from past the arc — with six turnovers. The Hawks misplaced at residence by 11 factors.
What occurred? Jrue Vacation occurred.
The Bucks acquired Vacation partly for his wonderful protection, and if he may even decelerate Younger on this collection, Milwaukee could have an important likelihood of going to the Finals. Bucks followers have causes to be assured right here.
If that April matchup was a sign of issues to return, Milwaukee is sitting fairly. In line with Second Spectrum monitoring, Vacation matched up on Younger 48 instances in that sport, and Younger managed simply 5 factors in these matchups. Younger was in a position to get his floater 4 instances in that sport with Vacation as his defender, however he missed all of them. All instructed, Younger is 1-for-10 in his profession when Vacation has been the closest defender on his pictures.
These terrible numbers for Younger are usually not sustainable, however they’re an important signal for the Bucks.
Merely put, there is no such thing as a manner Atlanta can win this collection except Younger is placing up numbers. Even when he does, the Hawks nonetheless have their work minimize out for them. Regardless of taking part in their first two collection towards the defending Jap Convention champion Warmth and Durant’s Nets, the Bucks nonetheless boast one of the best defensive ranking amongst all postseason groups, giving up simply 102.8 factors per 100 possessions.
Scoring on the Bucks is a tall order, but when you can also make 3s, you are able to do it. Milwaukee is legendary for giving up clear seems to be from downtown, and when opponents reap the benefits of that, they will beat the Bucks. That is an idea that has proved true in these playoffs: The Bucks are 7-0 within the postseason when their opponents hit 12 or fewer 3-pointers; they’re 1-3 when their foes make extra.
The unhealthy information is that the Hawks’ offense has crossed that exact threshold simply 3 times this postseason, and with Bogdanovic’s standing unsure, and with De’Andre Hunter on the shelf, Atlanta will want gamers similar to Huerter, Gallinari and naturally Younger to supply this workforce with each excessive quantity and dependable effectivity from downtown.
If these shooters can knock down tons of 3s, the Hawks can compete. If not, Milwaukee will go to the Finals.
— Kirk Goldsberry