After they gutted out a seemingly improbable overtime Game 7 in Brooklyn to upset the Nets in the second round, the Milwaukee Bucks have one foe standing between them and their first NBA Finals trip since 1974: the young and very talented Atlanta Hawks. Behind the heroics of Trey Young and Kevin Huerter, Atlanta completed an even bigger conference semifinal upset of Philly in Game 7 on the road, after dispatching the Knicks in five games during the first round. Zach Hood of SB Nation’s Peachtree Hoops graciously entertained some of my questions about the upstart Hawks. Feel free to check out their community to see how they’re feeling about the Bucks.
Q: Each team dealt with missing key players during their regular-season matchups, one of which was prior to the Pierce/McMillan coaching change. But the Hawks looked impressive in their defeat of the Bucks in April. What has changed since then?
Mostly organization, especially late in games. The Hawks often seemed unorganized under Pierce late in games, resulting in blown leads and losses. They have been more poised and organized under McMillan. Also, a little healthier and improved chemistry as the young core meshed with the veteran additions.
Q: Bucks fans are sure to give Bogdan Bogdanovic an icy welcome when he’s introduced tonight. But he only played 21 minutes in Game 7 of the Philly series. How limited does he look? How much of a factor will he be in this series?
Bogdanovic looked pretty limited in Game 7. We’ll see how well he’s moving this series, but it’s definitely concerning. His presence and gravity are still enough to make him a factor.
Q: How will the Hawks match up defensively with the Bucks? Which guy do you want to defend Giannis? Who will Trey Young guard?
I’d expect Capela on Giannis and Collins on Lopez, to avoid Capela being pulled out to the perimeter to guard Lopez. Young will likely guard Tucker, but it won’t shock me if he sees some time on Jrue.
Q: After 4 games, Atlanta swapped Solomon Hill for Kevin Huerter in the starting lineup to great effect. Assuming the starters stay the same, do you see Nate McMillan’s rotation changing at all?
The Hawks don’t really have the depth to change the rotation. Hill may play more than he did towards the end of the series vs. the 76ers due to the size of the Bucks.
Q: Which Hawk do you see as being the biggest problem for the Bucks?
Trae Young will still be the hardest thing for the Bucks to deal with. Holiday is a great defender, but the Hawks can find ways to free him up, or they better hope they can, at least.
Q: What’s your prediction for the series? How can the Bucks vanquish the Hawks and how can the Hawks upset the Bucks?
I’ll ride with the Hawks in 7. The Bucks probably have a little more in the starting group, but the Hawks have the better second unit and they may be able to steal games beating up on Milwaukee’s second group. If the Bucks win, it will be because the Hawks fail in the matchups against Middleton and Holiday on both ends of the court.
BONUS Q: Do the Hawks have any relics left from their 1951–55 tenure in Milwaukee, before moving to St. Louis and then Atlanta?
I know nothing, sorry haha
Thanks again to Zach for taking the time. Be sure to stop by Peachtree Hoops for coverage of the series from the other side.