From illusion to urgency: Anteto, Trae and a century of waiting

Bucks and Hawks will meet in the Eastern Finals with different pressure, but with the same goal: to earn the right to fight for their second ring.


When Nate McMillan sat on the Atlanta Hawks bench, the team had 14 wins and 20 losses; Since then, they have been 35 of the first and 15 of the second. When Nate McMillan sat on the Atlanta Hawks bench, the team was not even in playoff positions; now, he is going to contest his second Conference Finals in the last 50 years. The essence of the NBA condensed in a few months, the unpredictability made franchise in one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent times. And of all. Nothing to lose and everything to gain, then, does not seem like an easy mantra: almost no one can conceive of it as a shield to protect themselves. Hardly anyone expected that, at this point in the season, the hawks would still fly over Atlanta; but they are doing it at a fiery speed, hungry and fearless, capable of anything and without owing anything. Danger, a lot of danger for the Milawukee Bucks, who come from an opposite vantage point, a much higher one and who are simply where they should be: fighting for the ring to the end.When Trae Young silenced Madison, or bowed down to him, there was no longer a trace of Lloyd Pierce. Apparently, the culprit of all the evils, either by his actions or by those of the rest before them; Right now, in Atlanta, whether he left or was invited to march has no relevance. The New York Knicks, one of the surprises of the year, looked surprised. Eliminatory by the fast track (4-1), although it was raised, and ran, as one of the most even of the final phase. The same was happening on the other side of the picture, with the Brooklyn Nets asserting their outright favoritism and the Bucks defeating their ghosts. Back then, for both the Big Apple and Wisconsin people, the narrative was written with little regard for Georgia. Above all, for the seconds, who, if they got the ring, had to defeat, according to the forecasts, their executioner, half asleep but with the potential to wake up at any moment, the almighty big-three and, as predictable, they should insist , to the Philadelphia 76ers, the best team in the East in the regular season, renewed and with a self-imposed ordeal on the table. Mortal journey that has not been so much. In the end, the big-three has become something like a big-two and the Sixers, in a tragedy for the what, when and how, they have been pushed out of the way. The unpredictability in the midst of the unpredictable.

After the second game of their series, Mike Budenholzer's men looked dead and McMillan's men, for their part, had many deaths and resurrections ahead of them. Before the break of the fourth game, they were losing by 18 points and, in the third quarter of the fifth, by 26. They both won and have won the series, practically, hammering the nails in a coffin that, on their tombstone, has "The Process ". Daryl Morey himself, upon his arrival, had made it clear that this was the season of his definitive triumph or of his failure, at the same time. It has been the latter and, despite the absence of Danny Green or the superhuman effort of Joel Embiid, dominant even with a tear in the meniscus, there is no longer "Trust". The Hawks have had both a champion's response and a dash of luck, but so have the Bucks. Getting up from a 2-0 down is never easy, but the injuries of two superstars help. Kyrie Irving, after falling in the fourth game, did not return and James Harden, after retiring 40 seconds from the first, did so in the fifth, but in a version very far from his possibilities. Kevin Durant, with his most murderous gaze, lengthened an impossible that, for a couple of shoe sizes, was denied him. By centimeters, the Eastern Finals are this Hawks-Bucks, but it is by centimeters that championships are usually decided: inch by inch, as Al Pacino harangued on Any given Sunday.The nerve of youth, attack ... and defense

The Hawks arrive after unscrewing the best rearguard of the regular season. Ahead, now, they will have the tenth. Logic, what is deduced from the raw numbers, says that this is a series doomed to madness, fast-paced transitions and a continuous containment of air, but ... that of the unpredictable, again. A similar duel was also expected in the Nets-Bucks, the two best attacks in the NBA and, in the end, it was all decided on defense. Milwaukee, the team that averaged the most points in the regular season, was forced to lower the overall score and there, in the mud, it became strong. PJ Tucker, surely, is the obvious sample: a "dog", he also calls himself, who promised to "die" in the seventh game of the semifinals. But he was not alone, Giannis Antetokounmpo, although he saves the markings to the stars by not accumulating fouls, he also asserted, in many moments, his former consideration as Best Defender and Jrue Holiday, who will defend the next star, is academy basketball.

Young, surely wanting to antagonize the Fiserv Forum, will have to sweat so as not to remain only in the gestures. Ben Simmons didn't deliver what is demanded of a superstar in the last series, but he did assert his defensive status. With him in front, the Hawks point guard could only shoot with 39.2% accuracy on field goals and with 32.3% from the triple; In the actual shooting percentage, his numbers have led him to drop his efficiency by five percentage points (53.9%). Holiday, quick on his feet, bright readings, and with an army behind him guarding the rim, can lead to situations similar to the petite star. Despite all this, yes, Trae, in his first playoffs, averaged 29.8 points and 10.5 points and, taking into account all the sources of creation, he generated 57.6 points per game. Canceling him is a must for Wisconsin, but not only in the annotation, because when he is denied the success, he does not obey him: he has the personality to contribute from other angles, as in the last game against the Sixers, with a series of desperate shooting (5 of 23 in field goals and 2 of 11 in the triple), but still a key piece in the game. In the last round, to put data to the above, he was the player with the most assists (76) and the third in steals (12). At 22 years old, he is the undisputed leader, but he is not alone, which was intended at the beginning of the season, when Danilo Gallinari or Bogdan Bogdanovic arrived to start winning now.If their points are missing, they can add theirs, but also those of Kevin Huerter, the last great hero, those of John Collins or even those of Lou Williams, who arrives after having the luxury of crushing for the first time in the course, at that time is. With the losses of De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish (who can return), they form a rotation that, inside, lives on the double-doubles of Clint Capela and the relays of Onyeka Okongwu. In Atlanta they are going to need them all because, with all this, it can hardly be a series that Young decides alone. The Bucks will look to stop him and the Hawks, for their part, will have to avoid an excessive open field, with few rear weapons to contain an Anteto in the race. Capela, who is a natural overproducer, suffered under the rim with an Embiid far from his best. Giannis, for his part, arrives better than ever: he has been the second player with the most points in the semifinals (223, behind precisely Kevin Durant) and the top rebounder (90). "The work is not done. So that is the message. We have not won the championship, but this is a great step for our organization," he reiterated in the previous one. He is cautious, but he knows that he is facing one of the opportunities of his life to achieve glory: despite the long (and successful) career that lies ahead, he would not fall into error when he understood, in a conjunctural way, this tie as a now or never. The statistics, as a counterpoint, say that Atlanta has defended the rim well so far (they have left their rivals in the paint by 60.8% during the playoffs) and should continue to do so.

Enough? The unpredictability (that no one doubts that it will be present again) will dictate sentence. A priori, a comfortable scheme for Mike Budelnholzer, who will be able to entrust a good part of the time to that plan that he likes to change so little. The small quintets, with Giannis as a false five, have been high production stretches against the Nets, but they will continue to be an alternative for moments of jam. At least, now, it seems to have it. On a mental level, by the way, the coach arrives reinforced: after seeing his position in jeopardy, Adrian Wojnarowski (ESPN) assures that the victory against Brooklyn has been enough to guarantee his continuity next year. Less pressure, but same urgency, one that contrasts with the rival's simple and powerful illusion. Without Donte DiVincenzo, his rotation is expected to be similar to that shown so far, with that new comfort granted by his 'fake big-three', with a guaranteed star on the track at all times. On the part of the Hawks, by the way, in the 'stars' section there is a curious case: they are the first team to reach the Conference Finals without an All-Star since the 1994 Pacers. Pieces to shine, yes , they will not be missing.No champion and intertwined paths

Experience, as a group, is on Wisconsin's side; but experience, as champions, does not exist. No player in the series knows what it means to win a ring. Without going any further, if the finals of both Conferences are taken into account, only the Clippers have champions among their ranks: Rajon Rondo, Serge Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard. The last two are also injured. In the 21st century, none of the four finalist teams have reached a title eliminator and the closest, Phoenix Suns, played them in 1993. In the case of Bucks and Hawks, they would do so again after 47 and 60 years each. Both, with only one ring in their record, achieved in 1971 and 1957, respectively. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, still Lew Alcindor, Oscar Robertson, Bob Dandridge; Bob Pettit, Slater Martin, Cliff Hagan .. These names are being talked about; in the second case, still under the name of St. Louis Hawks.

A very different case when the spectrum is reduced to the Eastern Finals, with those of 2019 for the Bucks and those of 2015 for the Hawks, precisely, with Budelnholzer on the bench. At that time, with Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Al Horford, DeMarre Carroll, Dennis Schröder ... he fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers of LeBron James by a resounding 4-0. An important link, but not the only one. These extend from the most current present to the most distant past. Bogdanovic, in a meeting with a certain grace, will face the team that 'left standing' in the market, with the possibility of showing that his final choice was the right one; On the historical side, it is worth noting that the Hawks, from 1951 to 1955, were located in Milwaukee, where a series worth a Final will begin. And not just any one: in short (47 and 60 years, let's remember), it has been expected for more than a century.

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