Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks Preview
The Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks will travel to Atlanta for a showdown with the cellar-dwelling Hawks on Friday night. The Bucks, at 27-5, come into the matchup after a not-so-merry loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas Day. The loss was–for their franchise superstar, Giannis Antetonkounmpo–a disappointing one. Milwaukee will look to right the ship against the worst team in the league.
Cue in the worst team in the league: The Atlanta Hawks. Despite Trae Young’s scoring escapades, the Hawks come into their matchup with the Bucks sporting a record of 6-25 (last in the league), a net rating of minus-9.4 (last in the league), and a defensive rating of 113.8 (28th in the league). The whole “Warriors East” thing was a joke then; it’s a bigger joke now. The hope is now that John Collins, who missed 25 games due to suspension will provide a boost to a lackluster cast of players. Chances are that boost isn’t coming against Giannis and Co.
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Arena: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
Channel: FSSE-ATL, FSWIS
Bucks: Dragan Bender (Q), Eric Bledsoe (O)
Hawks: Alex Len (Q), Evan Turner (O)
Milwaukee Bucks Starting Lineup
The Bucks played in the second-most anticipated Christmas Day game, behind only the Lakers/Clippers contest. I anticipated it; Bucks fans anticipated it; the general NBA universe anticipated it. And the Bucks fell flat on their faces. Or better yet, the Sixers pushed them over then kept them there until they heard “uncle!”. Subsequently, a loss like that with such an enormous spotlight would spawn the hottest of takes. NBA Twitter didn’t miss a beat.
Milwaukee was blitzed from the onset and had no answer for Joel Embiid, who doubled as both an offensive wrecking ball and a defensive gun-for-hire. The Sixers big man took on the challenge of guarding the reigning MVP–and quite possibly the favorite for the award this season–and shut him down.
Giannis had 18 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and one very watery eye due to being poked in the by Josh Richardson. He claimed to suffer some blurry vision which might’ve explained his poor shooting (8-for-27 from the field 0-for-7 on 3s). On the other hand, Embiid played Giannis perfectly all game long. He was met on every drive, after every counter move, and on all his 3-point attempts by a 7-foot mammoth of a man, with nimble feet and a devastating wingspan.
The Bucks got down by as many as 29 and gave up 30 or more points in each of the first three quarters, an uncommon occurrence for the league leaders in defensive rating.
Khris Middleton led the Bucks in scoring with 31 points. He also added eight rebounds and four assists. Besides Giannis, George Hill (15) and Brook Lopez (11) were the only other Bucks players in double figures.
The Bucks are fine. I think the loss says more about the Sixers–and the fact that Philadelphia is a team built for a playoff atmosphere–than the state of the no. 1 seed in the East. Giannis is still the favorite for MVP; one game doesn’t change that. The Sixers are just that good of a team.
So it’s good news that the Bucks get an opponent like the Hawks for their first game after Christmas. Giannis 40-point triple-double in play?
Atlanta Hawks Starting Lineup
The Hawks were last in action on Monday. The result of their high scoring affair with the Cleveland Cavaliers? A loss. A 121-118 loss, at that. The loss against the lowly Cavs–the same team calling out their head coach for not being ready for the NBA game–marked Atlanta’s eighth straight defeat.
“We’ve got to take more pride on the defensive end,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “That’s what competition is. It’s personal pride. I don’t know how you make guys mentally tough. That’s where it is right now.”
The Hawks were led in scoring by Young, who had 30 points. He also added six rebounds, 11 assists, and four steals. Collins posted 27 points and 10 rebounds and rookie De’Andre Hunter chipped in 23 points on 10-for-19 shooting.
The youth movement in Atlanta has not gone according to plan. Firstly, the Hawks defense hemorrhages points. Secondly, their offense is inefficient. And moreover, Atlanta’s scheme seems to center on letting the exhilarating Young work in space with multiple pick-and-rolls and shots from deep. Unfortunately, while Young is producing at an All-Star level, his teammates are not ready to take that next step with him.
This iteration of the Hawks–as currently constructed–is still years away from making any actual noise in the NBA. For tonight’s game against the Bucks, it might even be less than a chirp.
Key Player Matchups
John Collins vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
After serving his 25-game suspension for violating the NBA’s Anti Drug Program Collins made his return in the Hawks loss against Cleveland. The forward dropped 27 points in 34 minutes of game action and looked like he’d been itching to get on the court. Collins will help the Hawks–who’ve been starving for anyone not named Trae Young–on the offensive end. His second game back will–unfortunately for him–come against an angry Giannis. While no one is “stopping” Giannis, there’s reason to believe that he might just take out his anger from the Christmas Day game on Collins.
Trae Young vs. Donte DiVincenzo
Under most circumstances we would be praising the season Young is having for the Atlanta Hawks. Unfortunately for him, his gaudy numbers haven’t translated to wins, and that matters. To be fair, it isn’t that I’m for heaping criticism on Trae–who’s fourth in the league in scoring at 29.0 points per game–it’s that I don’t think we need to go gaga on twitter when he pours in a bunch of points. That’s all. The Bucks are without Eric Bledsoe until January, but their defensive philosophy–one that invites 3s and funnels everything into the paint–sounds like a bad idea against Young. The thing is, the Bucks are all arms and speed. They have the athletes to bother Trae, no matter how close they are to his body. DiVincenzo has stepped up admirably for the injured Bledsoe; he has great size (6-foot-4, 203 pounds) to stick with Young and force him towards the rangier defenders on the Bucks’ side.
The Bucks have the best fantasy player not named James Harden on their roster. Giannis is a fantasy beast. Points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, field goal percentage; he gives you a little bit of everything. Milwaukee’s franchise guy is available for a salary of $11.6k with fantasy projections for 65.99.
Trae Young for the Hawks is listed as a “moderate value” at a salary of $10.4k on FanDuel with projections set for 39 fantasy points.
Bet on Matchup
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