For the second time in three seasons, the Milwaukee Bucks have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. The last time it happened, the Bucks took a 2-0 lead over the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors then went on to win the series 4-2 and eventually won the NBA Championship. In order to avoid another devastating collapse, the Bucks will need to do the following things against the Atlanta Hawks.
#1- Defend the Three
Of the two teams, the Milwaukee Bucks are the better three-point shooting team. They finished the 2020-21 regular season fifth in NBA at 38.9% from deep. Atlanta finished 12, shooting 37.3%. However, the Bucks are by far the worst of the two when it comes to three point defense. The Bucks finished 29th (second to last) in three point defense, allowing their opponents to shoot 38.4% during the regular season. For their part, Atlanta finished third in the NBA in three point defense. Opponents shot 34.9% from three against them.
The Atlanta Hawks boast shooters Trae Young, Bogdon Bogdanovich, and Danilo Gallinari. Jrue Holiday will play exceptional defense, no doubt, but Milwaukee will be without Donte DiVincenzo, whose defense will missed due to a foot injury.
Milwaukee’s interior defenders must take away the lane for drives and interior scoring. If they can do so, it will allow the perimeter defenders to stay at home on the shooters. If the perimeter defenders are forced to help inside, quick passes out could result in wide open three point shots.
#2- Play Wire-to-Wire
The Milwaukee Bucks have had a tendancy all season long to start strong in games, but allow their competition back into games. This tendancy led to Milwaukee blowing a massive lead in Game Five against the Nets. After that crucial loss, the Bucks faced elimination, and needed to win two straight in order to advance. Which, of course, they did.
The Nets team which they played, however, was without Kyrie Irving and a fully healthy James Harden. The Hawks are not missing any of their main contributors, and were able to eliminate the number one seed 76ers in seven games. In short, they should not be underestimated. After all, the Bucks were eliminated by a similarly seeded team last year, too.
A complete wire-to-wire game should consist of plenty of minutes from Milwaukee’s Big Three. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday should not be off the court together at any time except for garbage time (if that, indeed, happens).
One of the main ways in which teams have been able to climb back into games against the Bucks has been Milwaukee’s tendency to stop moving the ball when they are up by large margins. Instead, they settle for long, contested three-point shots while there is still plenty of time left on the shot clock. Instead of this, Milwaukee should continue attacking in the paint, where few big men can handle the Greek Freak.
#3- Attack Inside
Speaking of which, the Bucks’ should be attacking the paint all night long. Of course, Giannis is the best in the NBA when it comes to finishing in the lane. However, Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday have also shown to be serious threats when they work inside.
Holiday, who had a poor series against the Nets, must take advantage of his matchups and work his defenders near the hoop. Lopez, who is also a three-point threat, is also a strong finisher around the net. With the inside game being the focus, it opens the door for the outside shot as well.
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