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Basketball

ECF Preview : Hawks v Bucks

It feels like the time for the Bucks may have finally come around, with a NBA Finals appearance just 4 wins away. Although Milwaukee is heavily favoured in this series, they are far from perfect and the upstart Hawks just don’t quit! Whichever team comes out on top, it won’t be a walk in the park! Let’s have a look at some of the potential deciding factors.

The Battle from Downtown

The Bucks are notoriously bad at defending the 3 point shot, consistently giving wide open looks to their opponent. That is Atlanta’s best opportunity to do some damage. The shot will be there for them the entire series, they just need to capitalise on it. Obviously Young will need to lead the way, but with his nagging shoulder concern (and with Bogdanovic potentially out) players like Williams, Gallinari and Huerter will need to get hot, and stay hot!

It’s not all doom and gloom for Milwaukee though. They are capable of shooting the long range ball pretty well themselves. The winning formula for Milwaukee is simple. A heavy dose of Giannis inside and a bunch of hot shooters outside. The problem is, Giannis doesn’t seem to always follow the formula. Which brings me to my next key.

Giannis!

My gosh, this man frustrates the heck out of me. His never ending insistence to play like he is Steph Curry infuriates me. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

I can’t recall the exact numbers, but before one of the games against Brooklyn, Doris Burke gave us a pretty good breakdown of Giannis. His shooting splits for the playoffs were around 20% from 3, 40% from the free throw line, 80% in the paint and close to 90% in the restricted area.

Obviously his free throws needs to improve (and speed up, but that’s another argument) but you can’t argue the effectiveness of shooting 80-90 percent. Why would you settle for a 20% chance when a 90% chance is literally two steps away?

Only Giannis knows the answer for that, because he continues to take the long range shot. Just get inside!

I don’t want to hear the tired argument or about how hard it is to get inside play after play either. He is a professional athlete. His body is built for this.

The defensive advantage

The advantage on defense certainly belongs to the Bucks. As we already discussed, they are definitely flawed at defending the 3-ball. Their interior defense is elite though and they have some good 1 on 1 defenders outside the arc. Specifically, Jrue Holiday.

Holiday is going to be very important in this series, on both ends of the court, but it is his defensive ability I’m most interested in. Holiday has only played one game against the Hawks, on April 15th.

It was a double digit road victory for the Bucks and Holiday was a big reason why. He was the primary defender on Young, who finished the evening shooting just 3 for 17, including an 0 for 3 performance from deep. Yikes!

It’s too early to call Jrue a Young stopper, but if he can keep Trae’s numbers down like that, the Hawks are toast.

Injuries

Sadly, injuries have had a lot to do with the playoffs so far. We’ve seen many of the big names side-lined and their teams eliminated. LeBron and AD, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard are some of the All-Star talents that have missed time. Hopefully injuries won’t decide this series, but their are some to keep an eye on.

Trae Young has had his shoulder wrapped so tightly on the bench that I genuinely wonder how he can move. He looks like me when I try to throw a baseball like I used to! Sure, I can deliver a fastball still, but I can’t move my pitching arm for the next 3 days. Young continues to play, but it must be hanging over his head.

Bogdan Bogdanovic is currently a game time decision. Cam Reddish is questionable with an Achilles injury. Kevin Huerter is expected to play through his ankle injury, but these things can easily get worse. Obviously, De’Andre Hunter is out after his recent meniscus surgery. Brandon Goodwin is also out for the entirety of the post season.

That’s a lot of names with question marks for the Hawks. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the Bucks have a mostly clean injury report, with the biggest name on it being Donte DeVincenzo. This isn’t an ideal situation for the Hawks.

Flops and Whistles

It is a very sad moment to have to acknowledge how important the two above factors are, but that is sadly where we currently sit in the NBA. It is appalling and an insult to the game, but I don’t have the power to fix it. I wish I did.

I bring it up, because it is well known how Trae Young likes to manipulate the rules to his favour and it usually works pretty well for him. He can get a lot of easy points at the free throw line, even when his shot in the game isn’t falling.

Giannis and the Bucks aren’t afraid about putting on a good act either. Game 7 against the Nets had some disgusting dramatics put on by both sides. The difference is, Giannis can’t actually make Atlanta pay with free throws.

I hope it isn’t, but the whistle could be a deciding factor in this series.

Prediction

This is another tough series to call. The Hawks have been slept on in every round thus far and I’m pretty certain I have tipped against them in every round as well. This seems to work fairly well for them and they have embraced the role of the underdogs.

I do think that that is about to change. They’ve opened a lot of eyes, but I think the injuries are going to catch up to them in this series. With that being said, they definitely have a chance.

Milwaukee are their own worst enemy. They are prone to collapsing under pressure and falling apart on the big stage. If the Hawks can instil even the tiniest amount of doubt in their heads, they have a chance.

Both squads are coming off a 7 game series, so no one has a clear rest advantage. Bucks have the home advantage (for whatever that is worth currently) and the injury report is on their side. I’m going to take the Bucks in 6. I don’t think I’ve correctly predicted anything this post season!

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