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NBA Eastern Conference Finals — Hawks May Have What it Takes

Atlanta Hawks

Will the Atlanta Hawks Get Any Respect?

By Charles Jay

Admit it, BetAnySports customers – you were not expecting the Atlanta Hawks to be competing in the NBA Eastern Conference finals when this playoff season got underway.

As for the Milwaukee Bucks, well, even faithful followers had to be prepared for another disappointment, after a couple of years where they crashed and burned.

Most of the money was on a conference final between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. But these two teams spoiled those plans, to say the least. And they passed every gut check.

Both the Bucks and Hawks won their respective Game 7’s on the road. And in Milwaukee’s case, they busted up the Nets, designed as a “superteam,” but playing through injuries to Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

So here they are getting ready to kick things off on Wednesday (8:15 PM ET) at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

In the NBA Eastern Conference Finals odds posted on this game, the Bucks are laying quite a few points:

Milwaukee Bucks -7 (-115)
Atlanta Hawks +7 (-105)

Over 226.5 points -110
Under 226.5 points -110


In the series odds at BetAnySports, the Bucks are the -470 favorites to win the series, with the underdog Hawks priced at +375.

NBA Eastern Conference Finals – The Bucks’ “D” Will Show Up

On balance, the Bucks were absolutely outstanding on the stop end against Brooklyn, registering a 107.3 Defensive Rating against a club that had battled through injuries all season but still posted an Offensive Rating of 118.3, the highest figure since that statistic has been recorded.

Milwaukee was second in the league in “pace” in the regular season, and they have slowed things down in the playoffs, which is understandable. But this is a team that allowed more three-point field goal attempts than all teams but one in the NBA, so they will let an opponent take those shots.

NBA Eastern Conference Finals – Can Atlanta Hit the Long Ball?

This is where Atlanta has to step up. The Hawks finished 12th in the league in three-point accuracy (37.3%), but they hit only 33.5% from downtown against Philadelphia. Potentially there are a number of perimeter shooters who can exploit the Bucks’ defensive scheme.

One of them is Bogdan Bogdanovic, who could have wound up a member of the Bucks, but ultimately ended up in Atlanta after the Bucks disqualified themselves by, from a technical standpoint, “tampering” with him too early in the free agent process. He was Atlanta’s top long-range marksman in the regular season, nailing 43.8% of his triples, but he was only 28% from the arc against the Sixers, as he dealt with a sore leg. It would be very useful if he was to get hot.

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NBA Eastern Conference Finals – Bricks From Giannis?

In the previous playoff round, Atlanta greatly benefited from the inability of Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons to make his free throws. Simmons went 33% from the line, and that affected other parts of his offensive game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t tank like Simmons did, but his free throw shooting was a liability for Milwaukee against Brooklyn. Giannis made over 48% of his attempts, and admittedly that was a lot lower than he did in the regular season (68.5%).  

Incidentally, in the three meetings between these teams this season, the two-time MVP shot 64% from the field (63% from the line). His numbers were good – 24.3 points, 11 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game – but they didn’t exactly blow Atlanta away. And that should be of interest to BetAnySports customers who will see his Points/Rebounds/Assists over-under hovering around 51.5 for most of this series. Take note that he went “under” that total in six of seven games against the Nets.

NBA Eastern Conference Finals – Getting to the Line: That’s a Tough One

The biggest challenge for the Hawks may involve that which has been perhaps the most effective part of their offensive effort, and that’s their ability to get to the free throw line. Atlanta was second in the league in free throws made, and they do knock down those shots when they get them (81.2%).

Milwaukee is the stingiest team in the league when it comes to putting opponents on the charity stripe. They commit the fewest fouls in the NBA (18 per game), and that is one of several fundamental areas in which they excel under Mike Budenholzer, who incidentally was the last coach to take the Hawks to a conference final series (in 2015).

NBA Eastern Conference Finals – Where’s the Value?

So yes, we realize that. And we also acknowledge that defensive ace DeAndre Hunter is gone after his knee injury. But we also understand that Nate McMillan has found the winning formula since he replaced Lloyd Pierce as head coach (now 35-15 SU and 31-18-1 ATS). And that this team won Game 7 against the Sixers even as Trae Young went 5-of-23 from the floor. And truth be told, we’re not sure we trust the Bucks all that much.

So this is a value situation, where we will be happy to take the points with Atlanta in Game 1, and don’t mind putting a buck or two (pardon the pun) in the Hawks at +375 for the series.

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