The Atlanta Hawks are kicking off the Eastern Conference Finals tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks. It is the second year in a row the that the fifth seed will meet the third seed. And similarly to last season, the Atlanta Hawks seem to have come out of nowhere. Nate McMillan has done nothing short of amazing in turning around the Hawks season and making them viable championship contenders.
The Hawks took the Knicks out in a 4-1 series that originally looked like it could go the distance. Atlanta stole the first game at Madison Square Garden by 2 points. The Knicks came back and won Game 2. But that was it as Trae Young and company won the next three games by 9, 17, and 13 to take the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
That series went the full seven games, but might not have been even close. Embiid looks winded. His knee injury didn’t help. Ben Simmons averaging less that ten points-per-game and shooting an abysmal 33% from the charity stripe had pundits asking if he even deserved to be called a star in the NBA.
Had Simmons and Embiid been rolling on all cylinders, the 76ers may not be on vacation already. But there is no way to know what might have been, and teams play the hand that has been dealt.
Fortunately for the Hawks, the Bucks looked gassed after the Brooklyn series. Antetokoumnpo, in particular, was winded down the line, unable to even make his way back down the court for defense. He and the rest of the Bucks may not have enough left in the tank to go the distance, which positions the Hawks to land in the NBA Finals for the first time in 50 years.
If the Hawks do make it, will they face the Suns or the Clippers?
A Hawks/Suns would pit two of the best young point guards in the NBA against one another in a high-energy series sure to wow every NBA fan.
Of course, the Hawks could meet the laboratory invented super team from la-la-land, similar to what happened to the Heat last season in the Finals. In that event, Atlanta must win. If the Hawks cave to the stacked stardom of Los Angeles, we’ll know 2021 wasn’t really much different than 2020.
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