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Bucks vs. Hawks Game Three Preview: Tall Task In ATL

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NBA: Playoffs-Atlanta Hawks at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

For the Milwaukee Bucks, this NBA Playoffs series against the Atlanta Hawks has been the best of times (Game 2), and the worst of times (Game 1). Tonight, in Game 3 in Atlanta, we’ll get a good idea of where the rest of this series is heading.

As a point of interest, there has been a lot of coverage and consternation about Giannis Antetokounmpo and the time he takes on free throw attempts lately. In the following bullet points, I will address the concerns with as much detail as they merit:

Thank you for your consideration. Now let’s talk about the Bucks, the Hawks, and Game 3.

Where We’re At

When the threes fall, everything is easier. After a disastrous shooting performance in the first contest, the Bucks bounced back to their window of expected accuracy by going 15-for-41 (36.6%) from deep, and it was the sort of output that the offense needed to really get into gear. Milwaukee also made a handful of clever adjustments on defense. For one thing, they started having the guard (usually Jrue Holiday) leak out into transition anytime Trae Young took a deep three, in part because Trae holds his follow-through for a beat and is essentially immobile. This pressure opened up Milwaukee’s transition attack, which Atlanta had no answers for. The second adjustment was to the zone drop (The Athletic’s Eric Nehm has an excellent breakdown), having Brook Lopez drop higher (rather than lower, to the rim) and helping off of Atlanta’s non-threatening shooters (like Clint Capela and Solomon Hill). What will the Hawks’ answer to this move be, besides hope for more shots to fall? From Peachtree Hoops:

Milwaukee packed the paint against the star point guard on Friday evening and ignored wide open would-be shooters as Young forced a pocket pass time and time again. This is an easily fixable thing. The only issue is that Atlanta is having a harder time deploying their best shooters.

Bogdan Bogdanovic is not the same player he was in the regular season. He’s dealing with an injured knee and it’s hard to know to what degree it is impacting him as a shooter. Their best shooter this season, Tony Snell, is essentially out of the rotation at this point. He’s not being listed on the injury report but he missed a few games during the final weeks of the regular season and hasn’t looked the same since. De’Andre Hunter is out for the remainder of the season. And in this series, Gallinari is increasingly looking like a questionable defensive fit in this match up.

So, what’s the answer? More Lou Williams? Putting Bogdanovic in the corner as reducing his need to move off of the ball? The options are unfortunately slim.

The Bucks have a massive opportunity this evening. If they can prove that they can win on the road in Atlanta (something that the Sixers managed twice in the semifinals), they can even the score and make home court advantage in their favor again. If Milwaukee can put on the same type of effort that put the Hawks on their heels and reassert the Bucks’ dominance, they can further justify their placement as the odds-on favorite to win it all. The Bucks are (as of Saturday) favored by 4.5 points in Game 3, and most fans like their odds to come out on top, even on the road.

Player To Watch

All eyes have been on Trae Young this postseason, and for good reason. He has been the driving force behind this upstart Hawks squad, and in Game 1 he took such complete control of the game on offense that it was difficult to see how the Bucks could counter. In Game 2, Milwaukee’s countermove was evident, as they showed higher on screens (particularly from Brook), disguised their coverage better, and overall increased the level of aggression with which they checked Young. His best playoff game on Wednesday was followed up by his worst on Friday, so it deserves monitoring which version of Trae Young the Bucks force into the spotlight on Sunday.


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

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