The Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks are riding high heading into the Eastern Conference Finals. Both teams secured Game 7 wins on the road to win their respective semifinal matchups. The Bucks are favorites to defeat the Hawks in this exciting series featuring the Giannis ‘Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo vs Trae Young, but the way the Hawks have been playing, they could cap off their Cinderella run with a surprise trip to the 2021 NBA Finals.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, because the conference finals are an entirely different beast than the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs.
The Bucks are huge favorite at -480 odds to win the series, whereas the Hawks are +350 underdog according to DraftKings.
|EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS – SERIES ODDS|
|Milwaukee Bucks -480||Atlanta Hawks +350|
|EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS – SERIES SCORE|
|Bucks Win 4-0||+330|
|Bucks Win 4-1||+230|
|Bucks Win 4-2||+400|
|Bucks Win 4-3||+500|
|Hakws Win 4-0||+4000|
|Hawks Win 4-1||+2000|
|Hawks Win 4-2||+1000|
|Hawks Win 4-3||+1000|
With four teams left in the playoff hunt, Bucks are the new consensus favorites to win the NBA Finals at +110 odds, according to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. The Hawks are the long shot on the futures board at +1000 odds.
The Bucks and Hawks met each other three times during the regular season. The Bucks won that series 2-1. The Hawks only win came without Trae Young, who was sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Hotlanta Cinderellas: Trae and Hawks Keep Winning
The Hawks came into the postseason as the #5 seed. They were underdogs in both their matchups, yet prevailed. They defeated the New York Knicks in five games to win the first round, and Young became an instant villain at Madison Square Garden.
In the second around against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Hawks won three close games (by a total margin of ten points) before knocking out the 76ers by seven points in Game 7. The 76ers choked in the second half of multiple games in the semis. Young led the Hawks to several fourth-quarter comebacks including a historic 26-point collapse by Philly in Game 5. He brushed off an awful offensive performance in Game 7 after shooting 5-for-23, including 2-for-11 from 3-point land, and still tallied 21 points and dished 10 assists in the close-out victory.
Young averages 29.1 points and 10.4 assists in the postseason. In a dozen playoff games, Young scored 30-plus points six times. He’s only shooting 33% from 3-point range, but he’s been able to set up his teammates on the perimeter, where they’ve been knocking down treys.
Bojan Bogdanovic fell into a mini-slump in the second round, then injured his knee in Game 6. He played just 21 minutes in game 7, but was ineffective so Kevin Huerter stepped up with a clutch performance. The guy everyone calls Red Velvet led the Hawks with 27 points in Game 7 against the 76ers.
The epidemic of injuries has not escaped the Hawks. They’re missing swingman DeAndre Hunter, who is out after undergoing knee surgery. Bogdanovic has a sore knee, but he’s expected to play in the conference finals. If he can’t be the man, Red Velvet has no problems playing the role of hero sniper against the Bucks.
Beer City Buzz: Greek Freak Slays KD’s Nets
The Greek Freak held his own against Kevin Durant’s one man show in Brooklyn during the east semifinals. In Game 7, Durant dropped 48 points in overtime, but the Greek Freak kept pace with 40 points and 13 rebounds.
PJ Tucker was the x-factor against the Nets, because he was tasked with slowing down Durant. In the conference finals, Jrue Holiday draws the tough assignment with Young. The Bucks specifically added him to the squad in the offseason to act as their lockdown defender. Now, he gets his chance to shutdown one of the hottest and most exciting players remaining in the postseason.
“There’s a toughness with him that’s infectious,” said Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer. “I think our group was tough before Tuck got here, but Jrue just takes it to that next level.”
Holiday only shot 24.6% from 3-point range in the playoffs, but the Hawks’ have a softer perimeter defense than the 76ers and Miami Heat.
Bucks Were Once Champs… 50 Years Ago
This marks the second trip to the Eastern Conference Finals for Greek Freak and the Milwaukee Bucks since 2019. They jumped out to a 2-0 series lead against the Toronto Raptors, who were led by Kawhi Leonard at the time. But the Raptors rallied back from an 0-2 deficit to pick off the Bucks and win the conference title. Kawhi and the Raptors then went on to win the NBA championship against a banged-up Golden State Warriors.
Now, it’s Young and the Atlanta Hawks standing in the Bucks’ way of returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. The Bucks are four wins away from locking up a berth in the NBA Finals. They’re also eight wins away from their first NBA championship in a half-decade. It’s been 50 years since a tall, lanky guy named Lew Alcindor (before he changed his named to Kareem-Abdul Jabbar) led the Bucks to an NBA title in 1971.
Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.