Milwaukee Bucks: Eastern Conference Finals Preview and Prediction

Apr 15, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

After a grueling game 7 win against the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Milwaukee Bucks waited to see who their opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals would be.

The Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks had their own battle in a Conference Semifinals game 7. The Hawks pulled out the victory, setting up a series with the Bucks.

So now the big question is, how do the Hawks match up against the Milwaukee Bucks, and how will the series go?

Well, let’s take a closer look.

The Value of Home Court

The biggest advantage the Milwaukee Bucks have against the Hawks is having home court. The Bucks have played well at home all year, with a regular-season record of 26-10 at the Fiserv Forum. In fact, in five home playoff games, the Bucks are 5-0 (Miami Game 1, Miami Game 2, Brooklyn Game 3, Brooklyn Game 4, Brooklyn Game 6).

On the other side, the Hawks have been a rather poor team on the road this year, with a regular-season road record of 16-20. As Fiserv Forum nears 100% capacity, the Bucks have an advantage with the luxury of playing the majority of this series at home.

How to Contain the Hawks Offense

Game planning a series against Kevin Durant versus game planning a series against Trae Young is a very different task. Both are offensive superstars who present their own set of problems for the defense. Durant played mostly through isolations and forced the Bucks to try and stop him one-on-one.

Defending Young will be much different. Although the Hawks will run an occasional isolation for Young, Atlanta’s game plan will be to attack Milwaukee off of the pick-and-roll. According to, the Hawks have averaged the most pick-and-roll possessions per game out of any team in these playoffs, with an average of 30.2 possessions per game. That is good for 28.3% of their possessions.

Young is such a gifted offensive player that he can score effectively off the pick-and-roll and also facilitate to the roll man, such as Clint Capella. When Young does not decide to distribute the ball to the roll man, Young loves taking the ball deep into the defense for a floater.

So far in these playoffs, Young has attempted 7.5 field goals per game from inside the paint, but not in the restricted area (this is third in the league these playoffs behind Ja Morant and Luka Doncic, who each take many floaters off of pick-and-rolls).

This creates a dilemma for the Milwaukee Bucks. Off of a pick-and-roll, the Bucks cannot have Brook Lopez switch onto Young. Young is too good of a player not to abuse that mismatch. If you do not decide to switch, can Jrue Holiday get around the screen fast enough to put pressure on Young?

The Hawks’ love of the pick-and-roll will most likely cause the Bucks to play small, something they hardly did against the Nets. PJ Tucker will most likely play time at the center position and will be tasked with guarding Young after switching on a screen. Bobby Portis, who was MIA against the Nets, will probably get an opportunity this series as well when the Bucks play small.

Regardless of which players the Bucks play, they need to defend the pick-and-roll well and limit the amount of uncontested 3s the Hawks take.

Can the Hawks stop Giannis?

In the series against the Nets, Blake Griffin received the primary assignment against Giannis Antetokounmpo. To his credit, he held his own at times. Griffin had the strength and just enough quickness left in the tank to make things hard on Giannis. The Hawks will most likely send two primary defenders at Giannis this series: Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu.

Being 6’10, Capela is a strong presence in the paint, but will he be quick enough to stop Giannis from going to the hoop? Okongwu will probably be the Hawks’ best defender for Giannis. At 6’8, he is quicker than Capela, yet at 235 pounds, he matches up with Giannis pretty well on paper.

However, matching up a rookie with the 2-time MVP is a tall task. Okongwu is still a fairly raw talent and needs more time to develop. Whether the Hawks will have a formula to defend Giannis is yet to be seen.

Series Prediction

While the Hawks are a scrappy young team, the difference between playing a team that has their best player being Trae Young as opposed to Kevin Durant is pretty big. I believe the Milwaukee Bucks match up well against the Hawks both offensively and defensively, and I am not sure the Hawks have a clear answer for Giannis. All of this, combined with how well the Bucks have been playing at home, I predict the Bucks will win the series in 5 games.

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How do you think the Bucks will match up with the Hawks? What is your prediction?