Milwaukee Bucks vs Atlanta Hawks
June 21, 2021 8:00 pm EDT
The Line: Hawks +360 / Bucks -450
(Click here for latest betting odds)
The Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks meet in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, and before game 1 begins, let’s break this series down position by position to gain an edge. We’ll also finish things off with a series prediction.
Hawks vs Bucks Game 1 Pick, Odds and Prediction
Point Guard – Trae Young is having his coming out party for the Hawks this postseason and has been key to Atlanta making it this far. Jrue Holiday was considered the missing piece for the Bucks, but he’s shooting just 39.8 percent from the field and 24.6 percent from three in these playoffs. Holiday is the more complete player at this stage, but Young’s explosive offense and ability to rally off a flurry of points gives him the edge in this series. Also, if Holiday continues his shooting struggles, the Bucks could be in trouble.
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Shooting Guard – Bogdan Bogdanovic has been dealing with a knee injury and shot just 36.5 percent from the field and 23.2 percent from three against the 76ers. Khris Middleton can still be a bit more consistent, but he’s played well overall in these playoffs and was often the best player for the Bucks against the Nets. With his effort defensively and 38 percent shooting from deep in these playoffs, Middleton gets the edge at the SG position.
Small Forward – Kevin Huerter carried the Hawks to a game seven win over the 76ers and has scored 15 or more points in four of his last seven games overall. As he approaches 23 years old, Huerter is starting to come into his own in his third season. P.J. Tucker doesn’t provide the scoring that Huerter does, but he’s one of the better on-ball defenders in the league and makes life difficult. Durant scored a lot on Tucker, but nothing came easy in that matchup. This is a battle between offense and defense, but you have to feel Tucker is a lot more valuable to his team and their style of play.
Power Forward – John Collins is a really nice, young player who should get paid well this offseason. He’s a great athlete, can score at all three levels and has been an elite rebounder in these playoffs. With that said, you can argue nobody has the edge over Giannis Antetokounmpo at the power forward spot. A two-time MVP, the Bucks go as far as Antetokounmpo leads. Yes, the Greek Freak needs to improve his game offensively, but he’s the straw that stirs the drink for the Bucks at both ends of the floor. You can count on one hand how many players you want before Antetokounmpo.
Center – Clint Capela has always been a center who doesn’t get enough attention in this league, and he averaged a solid 10.6 points and 10.3 rebounds against the 76ers. The same can be said for Brook Lopez, who is in his 13th season and is fresh off a 19-point performance in game seven against the Nets. The difference here is Lopez’s ability to hit the three and he’ll force Capela to step out where he’s not comfortable. Lopez has also proven to be a more effective shot blocker, which doesn’t hurt.
Bench – Neither of these benches lit it up scoring wise this season, as the Bucks were 19th and the Hawks were 24th. The loss of Donte DiVincenzo hurts the Bucks depth and it feels like the rotation shrinks with the trust of Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton shrinking. There were games against the Nets where the Bucks got nothing from the bench.
The Hawks have two proven bucket getters coming off their bench in Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari. Lou Will can be a bit streaky, but he’s still capable of dropping double-digit points in a single quarter at 34 years old. Gallinari is averaging 16.3 points in his last three games. Those two guys alone give the Hawks the edge in the bench department.
Series Prediction – It’s no secret why the Bucks are favored. They have the edge at nearly every position, have the best player in the series and home court advantage. However, things are a little closer when you give the Hawks the bench edge and factor in Nate McMillan being a better coach than Mike Budenholzer.
Part of me wants to ride the Hawks bandwagon and take a bite out of those +360 odds. However, this is the Bucks series to lose with all of the length and size defensively. The Bucks should give these young Hawks hell on the defensive side. We also have yet to see the Bucks shoot to their full potential and yet they’ve still made it this far.
Things have broken perfectly for the Bucks, and I’ll predict they win this thing in five games.