Two game sevens, two winners, and thus the Eastern Conference Finals are set and ready to go. The Milwaukee Bucks won a tight game seven thanks to a missed game-tying shot from Kevin Durant. Atlanta also won a close game seven via the free throw game at the end of the game.
The East Finals now feature the fifth seed Hawks versus the third seed Bucks looking to advance to the Finals. This is Milwaukee’s first appearance in the East Finals since 2019 and Atlanta’s first East Finals appearance since 2015 and both teams ironically went 60-22 in those respective seasons.
Coming into this series, Atlanta is the underdog again, but that was not an issue considering they just defeated the one-seed 76ers while being underdogs. I said Atlanta had a chance to beat Philly and had my full support, and here we are in the East Finals and the Hawks have made it. So the big question again, do the Hawks have a shot at beating the Bucks? Let’s check it out.
Yes, Atlanta can beat the Bucks
I was all in on Atlanta beating Philly even if it took seven games and they did it. Atlanta’s young team managed to overcome their inexperience in the playoffs and are still alive. Philly definitely gave them a run for their money, but Atlanta in the end had the better performances. When it comes to beating Milwaukee, it is going to be a different kind of battle.
Guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the biggest challenges for any team taking on Milwaukee and Atlanta will need to be prepared. However, Atlanta still won the Philly series even when Philly’s big stars scored 20 plus points every game. Atlanta should focus on keeping Kris Middleton in check and possibly get Giannis in foul trouble early. If the Hawks want to compete with the Bucks they also need to manage the fastbreak by forcing turnovers and getting easy points that will prove to be much needed should the game come down to the wire.
Overall, Atlanta should be able to compete every night with Milwaukee. With the young core they have and the bench depth, they match up perfectly with Milwaukee, who also brings plenty of depth. Honestly, I see no way Atlanta wins in anything less than seven games. The Hawks proved they can clutch up in game seven, though, so if Atlanta can make that happen, they have a shot.
No, this is the end for Atlanta
Philly features some big stars and Milwaukee is in the same boat with the high level of play from Giannis and Kris Middleton so far in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Atlanta, that will be their downfall.
Two series in a row against significant superstars is going to tire out the young Hawks and prove to be too much. The biggest challenge is going to be guarding Giannis while also trying to limit Middleton as well. In the Philly series, Atlanta lucked out that Ben Simmons was non-existent in the scoring column; this will not be the case with the Bucks.
Until I see something defensively from the Hawks that proves they can guard someone like Giannis, Atlanta is in for a tough series and more than likely does not make it to the Finals. Milwaukee is also one of the better defensive teams left in the playoffs, so it would be no surprise to see plenty of double teams on Trae Young and stingy paint defense to limit the Hawks’s passing game.
Milwaukee is definitely a stronger team overall when compared to Philly, so Atlanta will need probably all five starters to be in double-digit points to compete overall. In the end, Atlanta’s season ends in the East Finals, ending a fantastic run by an inexperienced and young team.
I personally want to see Atlanta back in the Finals and I am going to go out on a limb and pick Atlanta to upset Milwaukee in seven games. Like I mentioned above, the only way Atlanta wins this series is by getting Giannis in foul trouble and taking advantage of his time on the bench to get stops on defense and get easy baskets. If Atlanta can manage Milwaukee the way they want, then the Hawks come out on top in seven games and no less.
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