The Eastern Conference finals between the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks tip off Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT). All eyes will be on the head-to-head matchup of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Atlanta’s Trae Young.
Let’s take a closer look.
How they got here
Bucks: Milwaukee came out shooting effectively in its first-round series against the Miami Heat. In doing so, the Bucks avenged their loss to the same Heat team that demolished them in the NBA bubble last year.
The Bucks, who finished third in the East with a 46-26 record, defied all odds by defeating a highly favored Brooklyn Nets squad in a memorable, seven-game semifinal series. Antetokounmpo stood tall, registering 30 points and 12 rebounds in five straight games to outlast the Nets’ three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
While Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday have been key players, Khris Middleton has been a solid No. 2 option for Milwaukee, averaging 23.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the postseason behind The Greek Freak’s 28.8 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
Hawks: Under interim head coach Nate McMillan, Atlanta was transformed from East bottom dweller at the All-Star break to a No. 5 seed with a 39-31 record. In the playoffs, the Hawks have emerged as a title contender. Young’s brilliance on the court has surely been the key ingredient, but McMillan, who took over for Lloyd Pierce in March, has been the master chef.
The results have been savored by Hawks fans. Atlanta limited Julius Randle’s impact to slay the New York Knicks in five games. Then in the second round, the Hawks silenced Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games. Young was solid the entire series against Philly while leading a supporting cast of reliable role players in John Collins, Kevin Huerter and Clint Capela.
Keys to victory
Bucks: Milwaukee must control the glass, something the Hawks have managed to hold their own with in series wins over the Knicks and 76ers.
Hawks: Atlanta must control Antetokounmpo defensively the same way it did with Randle and Simmons.
The series will go six games, and it will go in the favor of the Hawks.