It’s gut-check time for the Atlanta Hawks yet again as they fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 and must now win as they return to State Farm Arena. Atlanta is a -140 betting favorite to win Game 6 and push the series to a decisive Game 7 per the NBA’s latest line. Trae Young (ankle) may or may not play, but Atlanta should be ready to go without him.
The Hawks managed to trounce the Bucks in Game 4 even without Young but they got beat up in Milwaukee. This Saturday, they need to recapture their earlier form or their magical season will come to a close.
Bucks: Open For Business
Life is going back to normal when “Splash Mountain” is back in business. Brook Lopez, who earned that affable moniker for his sweet stroke, lit up the Hawks for 33 points on 14-of-18 shooting. But he didn’t do it from beyond the arc. In fact, he hit zero 3-pointers.
Lopez carved up the Bucks from the inside as they had no answers for him. Milwaukee shot 59.1% from inside the arc and managed to hit just enough threes in the fourth to keep the game from outside of Atlanta’s reach.
The Bucks are one of the NBA’s largest teams and they began to use that advantage against the undersized Hawks. Clint Capela played just 21 minutes as Milwaukee is now just one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time in 47 years.
Hawks: Stepping Up
The Atlanta Hawks were hardly in Game 5 as they allowed Milwaukee to quickly assert their game from the opening tip-off. That can’t happen as they return home. The Hawks will still face a size disadvantage. But they will also have a shooting advantage.
Atlanta outshot the Bucks from deep 15 to 9 in Game 5. The Hawks hit 43 3-pointers in the last three games compared to Milwaukee’s 28. Yet they’ve lost two of these games thanks to letting Milwaukee score at will from inside the arc and dominating the glass.
The Hawks have been outrebounded by an average of 11.7 boards in their three losses. Milwaukee’s forwards Khris Middleton and P.J, Tucker combined for 24 rebounds in Game 5. Atlanta will need the likes of John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic to help corral rebounds as they need every second-chance opportunity they can get.
Pick: Who Wants it More?
As George Raveling famously said, “rebounding is 75% desire and 25% ability.” Look at the greatest rebounders in NBA history and many of them are small-sized forwards like Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman. They just outhustled their bigger peers.
4 Hawks, 1 P.J. for the rebound.
P.J. got it. pic.twitter.com/1fnf0DwgGq
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 26, 2021
The Hawks will need to overcome their size disadvantage against the Bucks and hustle for those boards, especially when the defense should intensify here and scoring could dry up. But other than that, Atlanta also needs to continue assailing Milwaukee from deep.
But Milwaukee has seemingly figured out how to play without their best player. The onus is on Middleton to have another monster game, even if he doesn’t shoot too well. Tucker can continue being a beast on the glass while Lopez uses his size advantage. They may be the underdogs, but Milwaukee should finish the job.
Pick: Milwaukee Bucks +115
Bonus Pick: Turn It Down
Game 5 was a hot-shooting affair, but a lot of the scoring came from the fourth quarter when both teams elected to just pad their point totals with the game all but decided. That won’t be the case here as Milwaukee and Atlanta will battle harder.
The Bucks’ defense should continue to make life harder for Atlanta’s shooters. And on the other side, Atlanta’s defense will pick up as it usually has in the State Farm Arena.