For the third straight series in the 2021 playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks pulled off an upset by winning Game 1 on the road.
Behind Trae Young's playoff career-high 48 points and 11 assists, they stunned the Bucks 116-113 to take a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. Will the Bucks bounce back and level the series or can the Hawks extend their advantage?
Below, find everything you need to know ahead of a crucial Game 2.
Matchup: No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks vs No. 5 Atlanta Hawks
Series: Hawks lead 1-0
Where to watch
Date: Friday, June 25
Time: 8:30 p.m ET (6:00 a.m IST)
TV: ESPN, TSN (Canada), Star Sports (India)
Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
What to watch
To go small or not to go small?
Trae Young was superb in Game 1, punishing the Bucks defence on repeat for the first three and half quarters.
His influence was curtailed late in the game, however, with the guard launching a series of very deep threes and finishing 1-for-9 down the stretch.
During that stretch the Bucks went with their small lineup of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, P.J. Tucker, Pat Connaughton and Jrue Holiday, switching on the perimeter on not allowing Young to get downhill around screens.
While the strategy worked in some areas, the Bucks' lack of size left them exposed on the glass, with John Collins and Clint Capela dominating the offensive rebounding late, providing the Hawks with multiple second-chance opportunities that proved costly for Milwaukee as they gave up a lead in the final minutes.
Brook Lopez only played 20 minutes in Game 1, and you can't expect the Bucks to bench the big man entirely, but they will need to find a way to dent the comfort levels of Young with the ball in hand, as his ability to score and facilitate in the mid-range hurt the Bucks in a major way.
Will the Bucks ever find the range?
The 3-point shooting of Milwaukee during the postseason has been a head-scratcher.
Now 12 games into the playoffs, a constant theme throughout the run has been assuming the Bucks will eventually break out of their slump...but it is yet to happen.
|3PM per game||3P%|
|1st Round vs. Miami||13.2||32.7|
|2nd Round vs. Brooklyn||7.1||30.0|
|3rd Round vs. Atlanta||8.0||22.6|
You don't need to be a genius to spot the trend here.
The Bucks are generating open looks aplenty, they just aren't hitting on anywhere near the amount they did during the regular season and it's leaving them vulnerable in games they should have well in hand.
Star forward Khris Middleton was the chief offender in Game 1, with the usually reliable sharpshooter finishing 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.
If the Bucks find the range you like their chances, but the evidence doesn't fill you with confidence that they will.
It's no secret that Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer's seat is quite warm at the moment, with the pressure to deliver an NBA Finals appearance in Milwaukee at an all-time high.
After an impressive series against Miami and eventually figuring things out against the Nets, it was a head-scratching Game 1 from a rotation standpoint for Budenholzer.
No decision drew more curiosity than the choice to bring Jeff Teague into the game in the first half. It wasn't just that Teague played, it was that Budenhozler left the veteran back up to defend Trae Young while All-Defensive 1st team member Jrue Holiday was on the court defending the hobbled Bogdan Bogdanovic.
The result? Young poured in eight straight points for Atlanta, turning a comfortable Milwaukee lead into an even game while also igniting an almighty hot patch from Young en route to his 48-point masterclass.
It's not that Young didn't cook the majority of the Bucks defenders, because he certainly did, but it's well established that at this point in his career Teague is not going to be able to stick with Young and in a game that was decided by three points the eight-point burst felt largely self-inflicted.
- Kane Pitman ( @KanePitman ), NBA Australia
Same defensive energy
Defence has been a huge reason for the Hawks' success in the 2021 playoffs. Their points-allowed average of 105.6 is fifth-best while their defensive rating is fourth-best.
They did a great job in Game 1, holding Bucks - one of the league's best 3-point shooting teams - to just eight 3-point makes and for an efficiency of 22.2 percent. While Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo combined for 67 points, Khris Middleton struggled to knock shots down as he went 6-of-23 from the field.
Both of these things don't happen together frequently. So, as they have in the two previous series, the Hawks must bring the defensive energy from Game 1 because the Bucks and Middleton might not have an off-shooting game again.
More help for Young
In Game 1 Young received invaluable support from his frontcourt of John Collins (23 points, 15 rebounds) and Clint Capela (12 points, 19 rebounds).
However, the trio of key role players in Kevin Huerter, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams struggled to knock down shots as they only combined for 25 points on 10-of-26 (38.5%) shooting from the field.
A key factor regarding Young's supporting cast is the health of Bogdan Bogdanovic. He is declared as 'questionable' for Game 2 with right knee soreness, an injury he suffered in Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Conference Semifinals.
In the two games since, he's averaged four points on 3-of-14 shooting. Now, even if he plays how effective can he be? Just from a points production standpoint, the Hawks will need something from him unless Young can keep pulling out games with at least 35 points and 10 assists.
And if he doesn't play, who's going to step-up in those minutes?
- Yash Matange ( @yashmatange2694 ), NBA India
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