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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview: An ECF Reunion

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Atlanta Hawks vs Milwaukee Bucks, 2021 NBA Eastern Conference Finals Set Number: X163680 TK1

What is it, the mid-2000s again? The Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, both finalists in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, find themselves in the bottom third of the East standings as they square off tonight. This marks Milwaukee’s final game of a five-game road trip, while Atlanta is in the middle of a six-game losing streak. Seriously, I’m getting some huge Josh Smith/Andrew Bogut vibes in previewing this matchup.

Where We’re At

Milwaukee is struggling and the reasons are all too obvious: most of their dudes are hurt. The Bucks will still be without Middleton, Lopez, and DiVincenzo, keeping their front court rotation thinner than is healthy in these cold winter months. Giannis was shut down ahead of the Bucks’ overtime loss to Boston, likely as a strategic effort to snatch him some bonus rest while they can. Will Giannis rest again today against the Hawks, and an opportunity for the Bucks to re-reach the fabled 0.500 plateau?

The good news for the Bucks is that Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton are wildly outperforming expectations, raising the bar for what fans can expect from them once reinforcements arrive. George Hill has stabilized, and Jordan Nwora hasn’t fallen off yet. It’s always been about positioning for playoff success, and the early success that some of the Bucks have found from the middle of their rotation bodes well for the spring and summer.

Meanwhile, the Hawks are amidst an absolutely brutal stretch of their schedule. I mean, seriously, look at this:

The travel is hard enough, but that’s a collection of some of the best in the West, two leaders in the East, and the frisky Wizards (who Atlanta beat...for their most recent win, two weeks ago.) One of the themes Peachtree Hoops identified as a root cause of the Hawks struggles is their disappointing play following halftime; their shooting, rebounding, and possession control all takes a hit in the second half over the last 5 games. Tonight, they’ll be without Onyeka Okongwu (shoulder) and De’Andre Hunter (wrist), while Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) is questionable.

Player To Watch

Bobby Portis, the folk hero Milwaukee didn’t know it needed, came through in a big way the last time the Bucks and Hawks faced off...while Bucks fans held their breath awaiting definitive news about Giannis’ hyperextended knee during the Conference Finals. Back then, Portis was able to partner with Brook Lopez to wreak havoc on the Hawks front line, but nowadays he’s been holding down the Bucks’ big man spots by himself whenever Giannis is on the bench. The Hawks present a massive challenge for Portis, who’s never had defense as his calling card; the rim runs of Clint Capela and all-around game of John Collins are hard enough to contain, and that’s even before considering Portis getting switched onto Atlanta’s bevy of ball-handlers. Can Bobby keep up his scoring punch enough for the Bucks to survive another game without Brook at the pivot?



Poll

Game 14: Against Atlanta, the Bucks will...

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Win big (by 10 or more points)
    (11 votes)
  • 38%
    Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (30 votes)
  • 28%
    Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (22 votes)
  • 19%
    Lose big (by 10 or more points)
    (15 votes)
78 votes total Vote Now

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