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2021 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals – (3) Milwaukee Bucks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

2021 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals – (3) Milwaukee Bucks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

(3) Milwaukee Bucks

All credit where it’s due and with a little fate the Bucks are in the Conference Finals for the first time since 2019. Thankfully, Kawhi Leonard isn’t on the other side (2019 – Toronto Raptors). The Greek Freak is growing up and proving that it’s not about the individual player awards this year, it’s about winning a championship. The Bucks survived Kevin Durant potentially eliminating them from the playoffs and while Kyrie Irving wasn’t available for the later part of the series you have to give credit where it’s due.

Moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, the Bucks should be regarded as the superior team in the series, and rightfully so. They swept the first-round series against the Heat with no issues. After a close OT win in Game 1 against the Heat it was nothing but the Bucks winning by double digits from Game 2 to Game 4. The stepping stone point for the Bucks here is that they didn’t lay down to the “superior” super team Brooklyn Nets.

Defensively, Milwaukee has been one of the top teams in the regular season and the playoffs. The biggest x-factor here is Jrue Holiday who will have his attention on slowing down Trae Young. Now, Holiday isn’t Ben Simmons so how can we discuss this? Certainly, Holiday has NO PROBLEM shooting the ball or being an offensive threat for Milwaukee. Advantage Milwaukee if he can do a lot better than Ben Simmons.

(5) Atlanta Hawks

Listen, if you don’t know why the Hawks are here or the fact that this year’s roster has NO All-Star? Read the breakdown! Technically, Trae Young was snubbed from the All-Star roster this season but still not considered an All-Star this season! However, he’s not just an All-Star but a franchise-changing player coming up in big moments. He silenced Madison Square Garden and took a bow. What’s next? The Eastern Conference Finals!

Atlanta is definitely proving the naysayers wrong all season long. Giving them a hard time because Nate McMillan‘s previous playoff history included him going 0-7 in the first-round series prior to this season. However, he’s turned the team around and they are winning! My advice to anyone curious enough to check on the General Manager for the Hawks and tell me that a Golden State Warriors replica isn’t in the works.

Kevin Huerter joins the starting lineup for the Hawks in the last four games against the 76ers. With that move, it kind of proved McMillan’s adjustment right? Right? Huerter is the prime example of the next-man-up mentality. In a CLOSEOUT game where Trae Young obviously was feeling the defensive pressure, Huerter drops 27 points to lead the Hawks. The biggest deal for the Hawks in this series is getting some consistent bench scoring. You’ll need a combination of Trae Young plus the bench giving some support on nights that the Bucks may be clamping down defensively on the starting unit.

Top players to watch

Giannis Antetokounmpo – 2021 Playoffs through Conference Semifinals

  • 28.8 PPG
  • 13.6 RPG
  • 5.1 APG

Trae Young – 2021 Playoffs through Conference Semifinals

  • 29.1 PPG
  • 2.7 RPG
  • 10.4 APG

Where should the money go?

BUCKS IN 5

I know ATL is going to come for my head should they win. However, I trust the defense that defended Kevin Durant for 7 straight games better than I do of the 76ers and Knicks. A much different animal Atlanta is going up against in the Greek Freak. The Milwaukee Bucks will roll into the Finals!

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
ATL leads series 1-0

6/23/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 116
Bucks - 113

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

6/25/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 91
Bucks - 125

Game 3
MIL leads series 2-1

6/27/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 113

Hawks - 102

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

6/29/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Bucks - 88

Hawks - 110

Game 5:
MIL leads series 3-2

7/01/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 112
Bucks - 123

Game 6

7/03/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

Game 7:

If Necessary

7/05/21

8:30 PM ET

TNT

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No All-Star? No problem for the Atlanta Hawks

Surprise! The Hawks are in the 2021 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. No All-Star? No problem? That’s right, even with Trae Young on the roster this season he technically wasn’t an All-Star in 2021. Sure Trae may have been a snub but the remainder of the team? Atlanta is also here because of the supporting cast around.

They’ve arguably beat superior teams to them in the Playoffs. The Knicks and 76ers were among the top defensive teams in the NBA this season. No problem for Atlanta. Respectively winning each series to get to the Eastern Conference Finals and you can’t hate on it. The underdogs that everyone loves here are your 2020-2021 Atlanta Hawks at this point.

Ice Trae – Guard – 3rd Year

Trae Young‘s 2020-2021 season didn’t show any signs of regression or the direction he wasn’t cut out to lead a team. He was available for 63 of the 70 games scheduled for the Hawks as well. While he averaged 25.3 points per game in the regular season his overall game has elevated in the 12 playoff games prior to the Eastern Conference Finals. Below you can see the proof.

In case you haven’t watched Ice Trae in the Playoffs his antics started right from Game 1 of the Playoffs. His first appearance was asking to lead the Hawks in a noisy Madison Square Garden. The Knicks haven’t been to the playoffs since 2013 and post-pandemic arenas were getting the luxury of filling out the seats again. While winning Game 1 and eventually the series 4-1, Young’s silencing act in Game 1 continued on as he would take a bow in Game 5 while the Hawks were on the way to eliminate the Knicks. Just in case you missed a few of these golden moments, embrace the villain. While technically he’s not an All-Star this year, Trae Young has exceeded expectations getting the Hawks into the Eastern Conference Finals. Arguably, facing all superior defensive teams in the Playoffs, Ice Trae wasn’t phased.

Supporting cast

Kevin Huerter – Guard – 3rd Year

Ever heard of Kevin Huerter? The 6’7 shooting guard is Trae Young‘s backcourt mate who started four games in the playoffs so far. He’s the man that scored 27 points, which led the Hawks in Game 7 vs the 76ers. Now Huerter isn’t coming out with any shooting outbursts such as connecting on 5-7 threes in a game but so far in the playoffs the most three-point shots he’s connected on in a game is three. 11.6 points per game on 48-percent shooting is a solid way to support your star Trae. Considering that he also started less than half of the games in the 2021 Playoffs his scoring off the bench has helped Atlanta. However, Nate McMillan decided to start Huerter the last four games of the series against Philadelphia, and here are we still talking about the Hawks. That adjustment alone is a good sign for Huerter.

John Collins – Forward – 3rd Year

Atlanta’s season didn’t look too promising when the rumors about Collins’ issues with Trae Young having the ball primarily and he declined a contract extension. The report hit around early January of 2021 and the Hawks were 5-6 through January 15, 2021. Lloyd Pierce was still the Head Coach. Collins still played 28 minutes per game and that’s just about his average for the season (29 MPG technically). Fast forward to the 2021 Playoffs and he’s arguably the second-best player on the Hawks this season averaging 17.6 points per game and rebounds per game. He’s shooting the ball 54-percent from the field in nine attempts per game in the Playoffs.

Bogdan Bogdanović – Guard – 4th Year

After a weird scenario this past offseason where Bogdanović wasn’t too fond of heading to the Milwaukee Bucks (and in retrospect maybe a bad thing?) he’s proven that he should be highly sought after for a playoff team. While he was the third-highest scorer for the Hawks in the regular season he’s officially averaging 13.8 points per game through the first two rounds of the 2021 Playoffs. His ability to knock down three-point shots especially in transition is key to Atlanta’s offensive firepower behind Trae Young. Should teams decide to double-team or trap Trae on the perimeter it’s been helpful to have Bogdan right next to him. However, in the last four games of the playoffs, he’s shooting 19-percent from the three-point line but we have to wonder if that was due to right knee soreness which almost kept him out of Game 7. A healthy Bogdan is a good thing for the Hawks and luckily, since playing Sunday night against Philadelphia, they get Monday, Tuesday, and will start the series on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

Clint Capela – Center – 7th Year

Atlanta’s most skilled big man is Capela who is in his 6th year has some experience with playoff runs especially in the wild west with James Harden early in his career. He’s in Atlanta and he’s doing work! This season he’s averaged 14.3 rebounds (career-high) in 63 games. Could he be a poor man’s Rudy Gobert? He’s averaging 15.2 points per game on 59-percent in the regular season. His 1.2 blocks per game provide a little reinforcement in the paint.

De’Andre Hunter – Forward – 2nd Year

Honorable mentioned here. Hunter is one of the youngest Atlanta players who started the first 18 games for the Hawks before sustaining a knee injury. In those 18 games, he averaged 17.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, and shot the ball 51-percent from the field. He was also emerging as one of the better perimeter defenders for the Hawks. Currently, he’s sidelined with a knee injury and will not play in the playoffs. Unfourante series of events but obviously, the next man in Atlanta mentality has opened up opportunities for guys like Huerter and Bogdanović to play more minutes.

Nate McMillan

He’s a familiar name in the NBA Head Coach pool but didn’t have too much success winning a playoff series. McMillan was a miserable 0-7 in the first round of the Playoffs of teams he’s coached from 2008 until now (Portland, Indiana). The audacity that people brought this up as a reason why the Hawks might not be able to progress themselves farther than the first round! Shoutout to Nate for not just winning ONE series but TWO!

Roster honorable mentions

Believe Atlanta believe!

The odds and basketball media will lead you to believe the Bucks have the superior advantage. I’m not here to justify that Atlanta is going to win this series but should we really just give the credit where it’s due. This team has built a team from the draft, added Bogdan, and letting Trae Young become their star player. A coaching change midseason does not always put a team in the best direction especially into the Conference Finals this year. Kudos to the Hawks front office and staff for getting this young of a team in the right direction to be a winning ball club.

Here I leave you with a hot take and you take it how you like. I know Trae gets the Stephen Curry comparison over and over. But could you be mad if the Hawks attempt to build a similar team as the Golden State Warriors? Could this be that the Warriors blueprint can be replicated? Travis Schlenk is the General Manager and President of operations in Atlanta. If you’re not sure then Google him. His background includes being a part of the process that put the Golden State Warriors dynasty together. He’s already on the move in Atlanta since 2017 when he took over. It’s now 2021 and four years later with his star player in year three, the Hawks are heading in the right direction.


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2021 NBA Playoffs: East Conference Semifinals – (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

East Conference Semifinals: (1) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Atlanta Hawks – Series preview

(1) Philadelphia 76ers

 The 76ers came in with arguably the most favorable path to get to the Finals. A first-round series against the Washington Wizards shouldn’t have been a hassle. It wasn’t a hassle as the 76ers locked up the series in five games. However, learning after Game 4 Joel Embiid suffered a partially torn meniscus. He also did not play in Game 5 but obviously not missed.

As of Game 1, he is in the starting line-up and what is yet to be determined is how long can he long with the injury but most importantly how well can Embiid be an impact. Obviously, the Hawks defense will still have their hands full if Embiid isn’t impacted greatly. It still does give an opportunity for the Hawks to feel how mobile Embiid is and adjust accordingly, however.

The 76ers also arguably could be referenced as the BEST defensive team in the NBA this season as they rated top 5 for most of the season. Ben Simmons will have the task of slowing down Trae Young and who else better to do it than the potential Defensive Player of the Year?

The biggest plus here that Philly presents is they are very good defensively but they do not have an issue scoring the basketball like the Knicks. The Hawks will be facing better talent in Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, and Danny Green all shooters who shot 48-percent or better respectively against the Wizards last series. Dwight Howard is also a better defensive player on the interior to combat Clint Capela. 

(5) Atlanta Hawks

The final bow was Trae Young’s best act yet? Well, there is more to come as the lower seed of the 4th and 5th seed survived to the Conference Semifinals. After a 4-1 series win against the New York Knicks, the Hawks also got better news that Joel Embiid isn’t fully healthy.

The biggest boost of confidence for the Hawks is that not only was Young coming alive with this offensive flurry of scoring but Bogdan Bogdanovic and John Collins both seem to be the beneficiaries of the defense focusing on Young. Bogdanovic averaged 14.4 points per game against the Knicks while Collins averaged 12.2 points per game.

The likelihood of the Hawks winning this series will fall on how well Embiid is of an impact truthfully. Should Embiid see limited minutes I’d imagine this is a good chance for the Hawks to attack the paint and allow Trae Young to work from inside out to his shooters like Bogdanovic and Collins. Bench scoring for Atlanta will be key as Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter saw most of the minutes from the Hawks bench against the Knicks. Again, two guys who can shoot from long range.

The promising bright spot for Atlanta and their defense is De’Andre Hunter. However, Hunter has a knee injury and will not play in Game 1. At 6’8 he’s Atlanta’s best option to try and combat a Ben Simmons who is listed at 6’11. Some key injuries for both teams could decide how this series plays out however, Atlanta overall at a disadvantage defensively.

Top players to watch

Joel Embiid – First Round vs Washington

  • 24.0 PPG
  • 6.8 RPG
  • 2.5 APG

Trae Young – First Round vs New York

  • 29.2 PPG
  • 2.8 RPG
  • 9.8 APG

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
ATL leads series 1-0

6/06/21

1:00 PM ET

ABC

Hawks - 128
76ers - 124

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

6/08/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 102
76ers - 118

Game 3:
PHI leads series 2-1

6/11/21

7:30 PM ET

ESPN

76ers - 127
Hawks - 111

Game 4:
Series tied 2-2

6/14/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

76ers - 100
Hawks - 103

Game 5:
ATL leads series 3-2


6/16/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 109
76ers - 106

Game 6:
Series tied 3-3

6/18/21

7:30 PM ET

ESPN

76ers - 104
Hawks - 99

Game 7:
ATL wins series 4-3

6/20/21

8:00 PM ET

TNT

Hawks - 103
76ers - 96

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2021 NBA Playoffs: East First Round – (4) New York Knicks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks

Where should the money go?

Schedule and Results

Game

Away

Home

Date

Time

TV

Results

Game 1:
ATL leads 1-0

5/23/21

7:00 PM EST

TNT

Hawks - 107
Knicks - 105

Game 2:
Series tied 1-1

5/26/21

7:30 PM EST

TNT

Hawks -  92
Knicks - 101

Game 3:
ATL leads 2-1

5/28/21

7:00 PM EST

ESPN

Knicks - 94
Hawks -  105

Game 4:
ATL leads 3-1

5/30/21

1:00 PM EST

ABC

Knicks - 96
Hawks -  113

Game 5:
ATL wins series 4-1

6/02/21

7:30 PM ET

TNT

Hawks -  103
Knicks - 89

East First Round – (4) New York Knicks vs (5) Atlanta Hawks – Series preview

(4) New York Knicks

Did anyone expect the Knicks to be winning anything over 20 games in the shortened 70 game season? Probably not a lot of you but hell, here we are! I am all for it let’s go Knicks nation! Enter in Tom Thibodeau and the second season of Julius Randle in a Knicks uniform.

The Knicks are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this season and that isn’t surprising being led by Thibodeau. New York’s ability to stand out all season long was by becoming a gritty defensive team that leans on Randle to put them over the top in the close moments.

Derrick Rose joined the Knicks in a midseason trade and the reunion with Thibbs from their Chicago days reincarnated some brief success in New York. The biggest question for the Knicks in this series is going to be point guard play. Defensively, the Knicks are going to be tested by Trae Young’s ability to penetrate and get into the paint. Depending on how well they defend this the sky is the limit for the Knicks in this series.

(5) Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are a feel-good story for the league. After starting the season with Head Coach Lloyd Pierce and finishing with Nate McMillan the coaching change WORKED! Atlanta locks up the 5th seed after a slow start to their season. In their final eight regular season games, they went 7-1.

Trae Young finally gets his first stab at the playoffs in his third year (and perhaps a year he may have been snubbed as an All-Star). He averages 8.7 free throw attempts per game and this could be a point to watch if he’s able to get into the interior of the Knicks on defense.

Lastly, the bright spot for the Hawks is that their best player Young averaged 24.7 points, 12.0 assists, and 2.3 rebounds in 3 games versus the Knicks this season. Currently, the Hawks are running a 4-game win streak into the Playoffs and one of the better teams in the month of May and 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Top players to watch

Julius Randle – 2020-2021 season

  • 24.1 PPG
  • 10.2 RPG
  • 6.0 APG

Trae Young: 2020-2021 season

  • 25.3 PPG
  • 3.9 RPG
  • 9.4 APG