Both the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks had to prove in a seven-game series that they deserved to be in the Eastern Conference finals, and after two thrilling winner-take-all contests, they'll now face off against each other in what should be an interesting matchup. No one could've predicted that the Hawks would make it this far after the regular season they had in which they fired their coach midway through the season. But Trae Young's first playoff appearance has been a wake-up call to everyone who doubted him entering the league.
For the Bucks, getting this far was always an expectation, but it was never a certainty that they'd be here after a disappointing second-round last year. But with an improved roster and outstanding play from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, Milwaukee's exorcising some demons each step of the way in the playoffs this year.
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Ahead of Game 1, here's everything you need to know:
(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
- Date: Wednesday, June 23 | Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Fiserv Forum -- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- TV: TNT | Live stream: TNT
- Odds: MIL: -300; ATL: +250 | O/U: 226.5 (William Hill Sportsbook)
Bucks: They have the more complete team, and match up incredibly well against the Hawks. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton may take turns chasing around Trae Young so neither tire out too quickly, and Brook Lopez's ability to pull Atlanta's big men out of the paint will open up the floodgates for Antetokounmpo to punish the rim. The biggest key for the Bucks is getting Middleton and Holiday going early. Giannis is going to get his points and boards, but if those other two guys aren't also knocking down shots, it limits what the Greek Freak can do when the defense is swarming him.
Hawks: This is going to be the toughest team Atlanta will have faced in the postseason, and it won't be like Philadelphia where the offense stalls out for long stretches of time. The Bucks have looked incredibly for a majority of the postseason, and it will be up to Young to stay as consistent as he was in the first two rounds against Milwaukee. He's going to garner tons of attention from a number of the Bucks' capable defenders, so when he kicks it out to teammates on the wings, they have to knock those shots down. One concern for Game 1 is the status of guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, whose availability is still unknown for Wednesday night's matchup. Not having him on the floor takes away a shooter for Young to dish it out to, but Kevin Huerter proved in Game 7 against the Sixers that he's more than capable of stepping up.
The Bucks seem to be better prepared for this moment, and still have tons to prove this year. That doesn't mean they're going to steamroll over Atlanta, but I expect Milwaukee to come out and make a statement against this surprising Hawks team. Pick: Bucks -7