Trae Young torched the #3 Milwaukee Bucks for 48 points and 11 assists in Game 1 to lift the red-hot #5 Atlanta Hawks to a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. Heading into Game 2, Giannis ‘Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are hell-bent on pulling even in the series at 1-1 against the Hawks.
The Hawks went on the road to steal Game 1 with a 116-113 victory, but can they pull off back-to-back road wins in Milwaukee in Game 2? Oddsmakers are favoring the Bucks, who come into Game 2 as a -8 favorite.
|GAME 2: #5 Atlanta Hawks (1-0) vs #3 Milwaukee Bucks (0-1)|
- Tip-off: 5:30pm PT
- Location: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, WI
- Point Spread: MIL -8
- Total: 225 o/u
- Money Line: ATL +300 / MIL -350
- Series Line: ATL +170 / MIL -210
The Hawks are now 6-2 on the road in the postseason, which including playing games against a vocal audience at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and a hostile Philly crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.
Despite the 0-1 hole, the Bucks are still favorites to win the series according to a recent update by DraftKings. The Bucks are -210 odds to defeat the Hawks, whereas the Hawks are +170 odds to pull off the sick upset and advance to the NBA Finals as the #5 seed from the East.
Big Star: Trae Young with 48 Points
Consider the 2021 NBA playoffs as Young’s coming out party. Fans in Atlanta already knew that Young could ball, but now he gets to put his deft skills on display for a global audience. He thrives on the fact that opposing crowds hate his guts.
Young is beloved in the greater metro Atlanta area, but he was cast as the villain against the Knicks in the first round, and against the 76ers in the second round. In the east finals, he’s playing the role of the bad guy once again for the crowd at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
“Ever since I was in middle school, I always loved playing on the road,” said Young. “I loved playing against an opposing crowd, an opposing team. It feels like you’re really with your team, and it’s just them in the building. I think that really brings our group together.”
The Knicks were the top defensive team in the NBA, and Young poked holes in the Knicks’ defense and made it Swiss cheese. The 76ers were perplexed as well and failed to slow down Young. The Bucks now face the same challenge.
“He’s a great player,” said Antetokounmpo. “We’ve got to make it as tough as possible for him, be physical with him. We don’t want to send him to the free-throw line. We just got to make it, from the first minute to the last minute, tough.”
Young shot 17-for-34 from the floor, but struggled from beyond the arc with a 4-for-13 clip. He also went 10-for-12 from the charity stripe.
Young averages 30.5 points and 10.5 assists per game in the postseason.
Another Rough Start for Bucks
In the east semifinals, the Bucks fell behind 0-1 against the Brooklyn Nets, then won four out of the next five games to win the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Bucks do not rely on a heavy diet of 3-pointers, but they shot an abysmal 22.2% on 8-for-36 from downtown. Khris Middleton and Greek Freak combined for 0-for-11 from downtown. The Bucks have to make better decisions on the perimeter in Game 2 if they expect to keep pace with the trey-happy Hawks.
Greek Freak led the Bucks with 34 points in Game 1, followed by 33 points from Jrue Holiday. However, Middleton when cold with a 6-for-23 stint overall and clanked a big shot in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve just got to be better,” explained Middleton. “It’s as simple as that.”
On defense, the Bucks needs to figure out a more optimal way to defend high pick-and-rolls. They tried drop coverage to defend screens, with Brook Lopez entrenched in the paint. However, it provided Young with too much wiggle room.
“They’ve built a confidence, so you’ve got to break that,” said Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer. “You’ve got to win some of the close games. But a lot of credit to them, a lot of respect for how they’ve played in close games in the playoffs and the regular season. We’ve got to be prepared and be ready.”
In the fourth quarter, Budenholzer benched his centers in favor of a smaller line up with Greek Freak at center, so that rotation could switch on every screen. The Hawks still won the game, but the Bucks might’ve figured out a better defensive game plan going forward. They cannot allow Young to score 48 points again if they expect to advance to the NBA Finals.