Official Game Thread: 76ers at Hawks -- GAME 3


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Collins is not worth Max dollars. . while his efficiency is good, the more talented the team gets... The more his production slips. Typical guy that puts up big numbers on bad teams with few options and better than average but not great production on teams with better talent.

He is a problem if he has a max contract. He just doesn't deserve it.

Even Reef was a better option as a number 1 or number 2.

 

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I'm not throwing in the towel just yet. Game 4 will tell us how far or not this team will go in the playoffs. 

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59 minutes ago, Plainview1981 said:

Collins is not worth Max dollars. . while his efficiency is good, the more talented the team gets... The more his production slips. Typical guy that puts up big numbers on bad teams with few options and better than average but not great production on teams with better talent.

He is a problem if he has a max contract. He just doesn't deserve it.

Even Reef was a better option as a number 1 or number 2.

 

You hitting home runs at the moment. I feel the same way about Reef. I didn't think was a starting level player at all on a winning team. I do at least think Collins can be a starter on a winning team but not on a contender. He's someone that you won't make an impact on a contender unless he's in a Kevin Huerter role which is fine but that completely changes what you pay him as well. 

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3 hours ago, Diesel said:

I don't think that JC is having a better series that Bogi... But I do believe that all the JC's fault syndrome is B.S. 

I think many people feel the way that they feel about JC is because he asked for the max and turned down what was offered to him.   JC has had two bad games in these playoffs.   Clint too. Hell, Clint may have had 3.   

Another thing.  People saying that a PF ought to be able to create for themselves?  KG is not walking through that door and he's not on every team.   JC is a talented Pick and Roll/Pick and Pop player who has range out to the three point line.   That puts him in Karl Malone company.  I mean when you look at the PFs of this league:

GP
 
GS
 
MPG
 
PPG
 
FGM
 
FGA
 
FG%
 
3FGM
 
3FGA
 
3FG%
 
FTM
 
FTA
 
FT%
 
Giannis Antetokounmpo PF  MIL 61 61 33.0 28.1 626 1100 56.9 67 221 30.3 398 581 68.5
Zion Williamson PF  NO 61 61 33.2 27.0 634 1037 61.1 10 34 29.4 369 529 69.8
                           
Julius Randle PF  NY 71 71 37.6 24.1 602 1321 45.6 160 389 41.1 348 429 81.1
                           
Pascal Siakam PF  TOR 56 56 35.8 21.4 437 961 45.5 73 246 29.7 249 301 82.7
Domantas Sabonis PF  IND 62 62 36.0 20.3 484 904 53.5 52 162 32.1 240 328 73.2
Tobias Harris PF  PHI 62 62 32.5 19.5 473 924 51.2 82 208 39.4 182 204 89.2
                           
John Collins PF  ATL 63 63 29.3 17.6 429 771 55.6 83 208 39.9 170 204 83.3
                           
Rui Hachimura PF  WAS 57 57 31.5 13.8 310 648 47.8 45 137 32.8 124 161 77.0
Darius Bazley PF  OKC 55 55 31.2 13.7 273 690 39.6 83 286 29.0 125 178 70.2
Chris Boucher PF  TOR 60 14 24.2 13.6 288 560 51.4 90 235 38.3 152 193 78.8
Lauri Markkanen PF  CHI 51 26 25.8 13.6 250 521 48.0 119 296 40.2 76 92 82.6
                           
Montrezl Harrell C  LAL 69 1 22.9 13.5 375 603 62.2 0 10 0.0 181 256 70.7
Kelly Olynyk PF  HOU 70 62 28.5 13.5 337 697 48.4 126 368 34.2 145 175 82.9
Carmelo Anthony PF  POR 69 3 24.5 13.4 327 777 42.1 133 325 40.9 137 154 89.0

 

 

Which of these guys are able to create for themselves?

 

Malone faded in the playoffs as well but the difference is, in the modern NBA, teams go out their way to completely take always the PnR finisher which is possible due to modern personnel and schemes thanks to the NBA'S rule changes and allowing zone defenses. That doesn't mean JC or Capela can't score but they are more like Hustle man and garbage men more than anything else. Trae and JC in particular wasn't really scoring till the 4th when they game opened up and Philly abandon their defensive principles because they were scoring at will. 

The average fan sees 28 for Trae and 21 for JC and get happy but when both teams still had fight. Trae had like 14 points and JC had 11 points. They weren't effective at all. 

Trae stats say he shot 50% from three but when it mattered, he was like 1 for 4 and completely clamped from three. 

JC stans in here being disingenuous and you wonder why JC gets no respect. Trae got lit up defensively like a Christmas tree but at least still has impact on us winning or losing. JC seems to give us nothing since the playoffs begin. He's probably at a 0.3 WAR right now. That's not good for a starter. 

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Trae got work to do. The best verison of Trae has to become a much better shooter. When he can start hitting shit near Dame's level because he will never be the tough shot maker that Dame is, is when he will truly level up. He's a PnR maestro but they take a lot of shit away. Maybe the fact that we got two PnR finishers who really can't do shit without Trae's creation doesn't help.
 
Jazz didn't take that leap till they realize Favors and Gobert tandem ain't it and brought in Bogdanovic. Maybe for us, Hunter and Capela might be it.
 
Cam Reddish gotta get a lot better as a shooter. He's really the missing piece. A two way star Cam is what we need to become one of the elite teams. We gotta have that player who can break you down in isolation, get to the basket at will regardless if he miss or make like PG13 and open the court up for our guards when teams sell out to stop Bogi and Trae. He gotta work on his handles, body, core, and his ability to play through contact.
 
Hunter's ability to playing inside/out and outside/in is what Harris brings and why he's so f***ing lethal for Philly when used correctly. Coach Brown was using Harris all wrong wanting him to be exclusively outside/in. You gotta mix it up and get him on mismatches so he can get cooking using his mid range which is rock solid.
 
Hawks still got levels to go. I want to keep JC. I see value in him the way the Jazz value Favors but if he's paid too much, it might hinder us more than help us long term. I am happy where we are compared to the Highlight Factory Hawks. I even like this personnel a lot better than them but like them. We are at that stage where we are pretenders trying to become contenders. The difference is, Trae is legit. No one on that team was legit. I like Bogi like I like Iso Joe. I like young Horford like I like Hunter. JC is like Josh Smith to me. Capela wasn't on that verison of the Hawks. Nor did with have an Okongwu or Reddish which will make a massive difference or possibly none at all.
 
I feel like we are close. A lot closer than people think but we gotta be better.
 
Trae gotta develop into a better floor general and shooter. His defense is his defense.
 
Cam has to become a knockdown shooter. His 2nd half of his rookie season gotta be average, the shit he did last year gotta go shooting wise and he gotta get stronger and handles gotta be sticky. Since Hunter is gonna be out for awhile, he's the starter and he's gonna have to bust niggas shit. Summer league is gonna be good for his development. His defense is exceptional but it has to be more consistent. Ben Simmons is a tremendous example of what Cam can be defensively with more body training and building up his core strength on that end.
 
Hunter ain't gonna have an offseason.
 
JC just gotta continue to work on small things. His playmaking was shit this year. Short roll passing was ass. He gotta get a better feel for the game with the ball in his hands.
 
Kevin gotta work on that consistency. We always talk about it but for real, n* word. Please. His defense was much improved under Nate when we slowed the pace and got set on D.
 
Okongwu showed nice flashes during the season. For him, its weight training, skills training, typical rookie adjustments and really working on his range. He can be really damn good but he's a 4. He's learning the best players in the world like Embiid, Harris, and former guys like Howard put a lot of training and hours into this shit.
 
Even our own guys like JC and Capela. He's less limited than them overall at the same stage but he got a shit ton a work to do to get to and past their level. He got the world of potential as a 4. He got court vision, he got shooting touch, he got a touch, athletic, defensively talented, smart, and he some self creation but just too weak against these levels of bigs at this stage. He is miles ahead of where Hunter and Reddish were last year. While rookie JC was further along considering his role than Okongwu is now, Okongwu has a superior ceiling. I don't know where Okongwu is going to be this time next year but summer league with him and Cam should be interesting.
 
Bogi was a star since April 1st and in these playoffs, teams schemed him and Trae in each series. He earned the team's respect and is the biggest reason for our success since Trae is Trae and always busting niggas shit. Bogi really brought it on defense which is a surprise to many. He's our 2nd best offensive player by far and is someone we are building our backcourt around long term. He's a young 28 too since he doesn't have a shit ton of miles on him. With his style of play, he could be effective for us into his late 30s. His improvement areas are finishing around the rim and really mastering the floater like Trae and getting his spots better and being the mid range gawd as well as the sniper gawd.
 
Capela is a beast who's limited and will always be limited. I just want to see better FT shooting, really learning how to defend the best players in the NBA. I want him to work on flexibility like a lot and really take the challenge in the offseason that he's gonna be able to at least effect Joel Embiid in 2022 and onward defensively. Offensively, he is what he is but at least get to 65% from the charity stripe
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Too much size for Philly, too many perimeter defenders missing for us.  Assist to turnover ratio is 1.34 for us, 2.27 for Philly.  
 

Thybulle and Dwight have monster ratings due to their obscene shooting.  Bogdon killing the team with way too many minutes, turnovers, and a shooting drop off.  Lou and Solo have awful ratings but that’s not surprising.  I’ll give OO a pass this series he was great last one.  But Snell has a 0 (!!!!!) offensive rating next to 133 defensive in 18 total minutes.  Every second he’s been on the court has been a free fall for the team.  We all knew Clint was gonna struggle with Embiid and the refs so that’s no surprise either; he hasn’t been able to generate any offense at all getting bullied all game.  The board loves to kill John but he and Gallo are the only two guys with positive ratings in the series.  Don’t try to argue with me I don’t budge on them shits lol.  Trae is only -2 which is actually excellent given his size disadvantage and the defenders he’s facing.  With Green out his defensive rating might balloon but offensively a 2.6:1 assist to turn and his FT shooting will always keep him in good standing.

In other news, CP3 has a 155 to 106 rating in their current series.  Again.  155 to 106. They mentioned James Jones and how he just backed up the Brinks truck for a 35 year old.  One of the best moves in recent FA memory the man is the smartest player I’ve ever seen bar none.

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2 hours ago, NBASupes said:

I wrote this on my peoples site, my language is a tad more colorful than usual. My bad for that.

That was a five star post. Might as well make it it's own topic whenever our season ends, because you hit basically everything each player needs to improve to take the team to the next level.

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2 hours ago, NBASupes said:

I wrote this on my peoples site, my language is a tad more colorful than usual. My bad for that.

You could do a voluntary self ban, like the college teams do when they find recruiting violations. 

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DEFENSE is our problem. In general, we are scoring enough, but we go thru these droughts where we cannot buy a bucket and on the flip side cannot stop anyone. 

We could not and did not defend We did a better job on Embiid (somewhat), but we did not stop ANYBODY else. 

We got 1 point and 2 rebounds from the SF position that isn't even a blip on the radar defensively to warrant being starters - no matter who else is struggling, we aren't winning with this much non-production at this position.

Embiid is just too big and too Good for Clint to defend and unfortunately his offense just isn't good enough to help offset any of that to really make Embiid work on defense.

Tobias Harris is running free as a bird, we have no one to defend him unfortunately. (Oh Hunter, how we miss thee).

I'm dissapointed in the loss, but I see what we can be.  

We need to play more disciplined defense in game 4, too much reaching on defense, move your feet. And stop letting the one scrub get loose, smh.

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4 hours ago, NBASupes said:

Malone faded in the playoffs as well but the difference is, in the modern NBA, teams go out their way to completely take always the PnR finisher which is possible due to modern personnel and schemes thanks to the NBA'S rule changes and allowing zone defenses. That doesn't mean JC or Capela can't score but they are more like Hustle man and garbage men more than anything else. Trae and JC in particular wasn't really scoring till the 4th when they game opened up and Philly abandon their defensive principles because they were scoring at will. 

The average fan sees 28 for Trae and 21 for JC and get happy but when both teams still had fight. Trae had like 14 points and JC had 11 points. They weren't effective at all. 

Trae stats say he shot 50% from three but when it mattered, he was like 1 for 4 and completely clamped from three. 

JC stans in here being disingenuous and you wonder why JC gets no respect. Trae got lit up defensively like a Christmas tree but at least still has impact on us winning or losing. JC seems to give us nothing since the playoffs begin. He's probably at a 0.3 WAR right now. That's not good for a starter. 

Bingo. I wanted to post that yesterday.  The NBA, just like the NFL, has max rules in effect to allow offenses to score high points.  What happens is in these games, players can now put up a ton of meaningless points.  A 20 point game player today would be a 15 point player back in the 90s, and probably a 12 point a game player in the 80s.  The points that Trae and Collins got yesterday, though they count, were not efficent points.   It matters when and how you get points.  Like you said, Philly eased off their defensive pressure because it was no longer needed.  Why tire your guys out?  They realized Atlanta was finished and COASTED on defense.  That allowed Trae and Collins to get Matt Ryan style stats ( yes, that was intentional)... lmao.

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8 hours ago, bleachkit said:

I dont want to say the series is over, but what can we do with a black hole at small forward? We have to get hot from three to stay in it. Also, to win this series now we need another win in Philly. Tough hill to climb. 

This^.

And there just isn't enough on the defensive side to make it worthwhile.

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5 hours ago, Plainview1981 said:

Collins is not worth Max dollars. . while his efficiency is good, the more talented the team gets... The more his production slips. Typical guy that puts up big numbers on bad teams with few options and better than average but not great production on teams with better talent.

He is a problem if he has a max contract. He just doesn't deserve it.

Even Reef was a better option as a number 1 or number 2.

 

Great so we let Collins go. Pray tell me who we bring in next year that will give us 17-7 in 70%TS during the playoffs next year.

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1 minute ago, Atlantaholic said:

Great so we let Collins go. Pray tell me who we bring in next year that will give us 17-7 in 70%TS during the playoffs next year.

That's the quandary NBA teams face. You can overpay a guy or let him walk. Usually teams opt to overpay because who else are you going to replace him with? 

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The 1st quarter, we were just too tight, our youth and inexperience showed.

In the 3rd - I'll start with Nate for not starting Huerter (which he should have done to start the game).  He can be so stubborn with his rotations.

But that 3rd quarter got away from us really quickly. 2 minutes in we were only down 5, then the wheels quickly fell off. TOs and missed open shots killed whatever momentum we had, in less than 3 minutes we were down 14. And it was a wrap after that.

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Just now, bleachkit said:

That's the quandary NBA teams face. You can overpay a guy or let him walk. Usually teams opt to overpay because who else are you going to replace him with? 

Was Gobert worth 45 million a year? You can say, of course not... but then what do the Jazz do with all that money? Who do they bring in that is better than Gobert? Jon Collins may not be worth 30 million or whatever much he'll get offered but if we save that 30 million who are we bringing in? Are we bringing in Kawhi Leanord? No, we aren't. We would bring in no one. 

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11 hours ago, NERMAN said:

Saying their heart isn't in it is just silly when they're out there giving it everything they've got.  They just got beat.

They just wanted the game over down the stretch and we’re giving up wide open baskets on the perimeter and in the paint.  Not saying their heart wasn’t in it all game - just that last no-defense close to the game.

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      In making Childress the highest-paid hooper ever outside of North America, Olympiacos’ investment didn’t quite pay off the way the team had dreamed. Yes, they reached the Greek League title games in each of Childress’ first two seasons there. But they couldn’t get over the hump versus hated rival Panathinaikos in either year. Their rivals basically paid a lot less for ex- Memphis Grizzlie and American expatriate Mike Batiste, the Greek League MVP, to get the job done for seven years straight.
      The larger aims for Olympiacos were EuroLeague championships. The Reds fell short after reaching the EuroLeague Final Four in Chillz’ first season, and the title round in his second. And the true team stars by that time were Lithuanian forward Linas Kleiza and point guard Milos Teodosic. The riches and perks delivered to an American, mediocre among his own NBA-level countrymen, to be the third-banana on a team not winning trophies, was not lost on a growing legion of angry Greeks. All that movie-star munificence, for The Ron Harper By Default of Greece, while everyone already there struggles to make ends meet? As sporting venues built for 2004 were already looking like ancient ruins? Opa!
      That Olympiacos would go on to win those coveted Greek League and Euroleague titles in ensuing years without Josh, but with the leadership of guys named Acie Law and Pero, only underscored the peninsula's consternation over Childress' nationally lampooned European vacation. Not much gets past the radar that was Childress’ sizable ears. Before the third season could arrive, before his value in the NBA could spoil, Chillz opted out of his Olympiacos deal, returning to The States to take Robert Sarver’s taxable money.
      “That man brought in Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress,” stated Amar’e Stoudemire, disparagingly, of his former paycheck signer at the Phoenix Suns. When Stoudemire’s free agency period arrived, Stoudemire told the All the Smoke Podcast that Sarver bragged that the NBA All-Star “could be replaced, tomorrow.” When he took a gander at these so-called replacements, “I said, ‘Man, you got to be kidding me,’” Amar’e recalled. “So, I end up going to New York.”
      No high-level free agent, by that point in 2010, was banging on doors to grab much of Atlanta Spirit Group’s money, a stash that was dwindling by the year. Josh’s overseas exploits didn’t prove to be something Atlanta would sorely miss. But the ability to develop Childress further here, versus NBA competition, as part of the organic growth of an emerging young club, felt like an opportunity only the Hawks could creatively squander.
      Around town, Childress’ departure was the Jenga moment for consumer confidence in Hawks stewardship. Subsequent to the dreamy postseason of 2008, the team itself scraped through the next two years of opening rounds, only to be waxed thoroughly, at home and away, in second rounds, by teams seen as authentic superstar-led contenders.
      “The Hawks looked to have a nice thing going, for a minute there,” was the old saw. “And then Josh Childress ran off to Greece, so that’s the end of that. Atlanta Sports! smh.”
      Whether it’s Childress bailing for the Aegean Sea, or Thabo and Pero celebrating the clinching of the top-seed with a fateful late night out on the town in NYC, you never know precisely when the Hawks’ Jenga moment arrives, and especially not how. What you come to understand, in hindsight, is the destabilizing event causes a step back that makes it hard for Atlanta’s carefully-crafted collectives to recover.
      As Game 4 unfurls here at State Farm Arena in these Eastern Conference Playoffs (8:30 PM Eastern, TNT, 92.9 FM in ATL, Postgame coverage on Bally Sports Southeast), Hawks fans can only hope that Trae Young’s step back, onto the clown shoe of a Game 3 referee along the sideline following a bad pass, won’t be just another Jenga block to toss into the fire of, “We had a good run going, BUT…” Atlanta Sports moments.
      In this series with the Milwaukee Bucks, as other Hawks have struggled to be reliable offensive contributors, Young’s scoring proficiencies are essential for Atlanta to keep up with a phenom from Greece, that former 12-year-old from Sepolia who’s all grown up now.
      Giannis was but 16 in 2011, the year after Childress concluded his Olympiacos run, when he was invited to play for a third-tier semi-pro basketball league, catching the eye of European and at least a couple American pro-league scouts alike. A full decade later, simply counting to ten remains a challenge at times for Antetokounmpo. But the two-time NBA MVP and 2020 DPOY has had little trouble maturing in many other aspects of the game.
      Giannis has assumed the top-spot previously held by Atlanta’s Clint Capela (12.7 RPG) as this postseason’s rebounding leader (13.3 RPG). Blending his newfound strength with his eye-popping dexterity, the Greek Freak only needs teammates willing to compensate for his shortcomings at the three-point line (18.5 Playoff 3FG%) and at the charity stripe (55.1 Playoff FT%, with a few of the makes disallowable, but for the referees out here trippin’).
      His 6.3 APG in this series now outpaces Young (team-high 6.0 APG; as per Locked On Bucks podcaster Frank Madden, held in consecutive games below 5 assists for the first time since March 2020), as does Khris Middleton’s (6.3 APG) and Jrue Holiday’s (9.7 APG). The ball movement for coach Mike Budenhozer’s club has become a point of exploitation, in contrast to a Hawks offense (107.8 O-Rating, lowest among the NBA Final Four) that gets stilted for long stretches and struggles to create when Young isn’t initiating plays.
      Giannis’ dips, dunks, and dishes deep in the post are creating opportunities for his co-stars, who in turn create quality offensive chances for the rest of the roster. Whether it’s halfcourt heaves, awkward layup shots, or contested mid-rangers, Atlanta’s field goal makes in the two most recent games come with much higher degrees of difficulty.
      Rebounding, after Capela and John Collins (10.3 series RPG, despite 4.0 personals/game), dime-dropping, after Trae, and defense, after Kevin Huerter (team-high 3 blocks in Sunday’s 113-102 loss, which only scratches the surface of how good he looked) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (2.3 SPG), are near-binary in numerical production among the remnants of the Hawks’ cast.
      Hawks coach Nate McMillan could do well to consider going big earlier, introducing Danilo Gallinari as a quick sub for Bogi (listed as probable ahead of Game 4), and preserving the swingman’s weary knee for crucial defensive stops later in the contest. Bogdanovic played through Sunday’s entire final quarter but was a defensive non-factor as Middleton (20 4th-quarter points in Game 3, incl. 4-for-6 3FGs) ignited to help Milwaukee surge ahead for good.
      It wasn’t the playoffs, but two months ago, a Hawks team without Young available caught Giannis and the Bucks slipping. One night after clobbering an injury-and-illness-riddled Sixers team at home, Milwaukee flew to Atlanta and was feeling good after entering the fourth quarter up by 8 points. As was the case on Sunday, Middleton heated up in the final frame as well, with 12 of his 23 points. But so did Atlanta’s Bogdanovic and Lou Williams from beyond the 3-point arc (combined 8-for-9 3FGs).
      Meanwhile, Capela and fill-in starter Solomon Hill did just enough on that April evening to contain Antetokounmpo, while Buck teammates were of little use, at either end, on the back end of their back-to-back. In Game 3, the revelatory rookie Onyeka Okongwu showed he could serve Hill’s defensive role well, and maybe not just in a pinch.
      Whether Young (6-for-14 3FGs in Game 3; listed as questionable, bruised foot) is fully functional, fully productive, fully available, or not, some of the Traemates have to catch fire from outside if Atlanta intends to fully recover in this series. The Otherhawks (4-for-19 3FGs in victorious Game 1, 7-for-31 in Game 2) were by default a series-best 9-for-23 on non-Trae treys in Game 3, skewed downward by Bogi’s 2-for-10 outing, and are 21-for-70 in this series overall. Having the proper personnel getting back on defense is essential, too, whenever the Bucks aren’t retrieving Atlanta’s jumpshots from the bottom of the net.
      Hopefully, Young will be available to help the Hawks wage a fairer fight with Antetokounmpo and company tonight, earning Atlanta a guaranteed third home game in these conference finals while staving off the potential for elimination on Thursday in Wisconsin.
      In so doing, the Hawks will also have staved off what looked to be, on Sunday night, another Jenga moment for Atlanta Sports history. Also, it is hoped, we’ll get through the summer offseason without any others unfolding.
      John, if you get a call in a few weeks about a business opportunity from the Sultan of Brunei, please, just hang up the phone.
       
      Let’s Go Hawks!
      ~lw3
    • By lethalweapon3
      “Been There. Done That. Made The T-Shirt!”
       
      The Hawks had the Bucks dead-to-rights. In their house, Atlanta’s Omni Coliseum.
      The prize that awaited Atlanta was a date with destiny. The season before, a classic nip-and-tuck affair between Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird, at hallowed Boston Garden, had the Hawks coming up on the short end but earning the admiration of NBA fans everywhere. It was far too late to establish Atlanta, in their lovely red-and-yellow jerseys, as The Team of the 80’s. But who would take the lead and rule the roost in the final full season of the decade?
      After edging the Hawks in 1988’s second-round series, the Celtics would relinquish the Eastern Conference crown for the first time in five years, to Isaiah Thomas and the Pistons. The next season, Boston lost Bird to a season-ending injury early, leaving the NBA East as wide open as it had been in recent memory. Who would challenge the new kings of the East, in their Auburn Hills palace?
      Chicago, and Michael Jordan? As far as anyone could tell, the eventual 6th-seeded Bulls weren’t ready. Cleveland, and Brad Daugherty? A breakthrough season awaited, but the core of Lenny Wilkens’ 3-seed Cavs were so young. Patrick Ewing and the Knicks? They would win the Bird-less Atlantic Division. But they finished with the exact same 52-30 record as Nique and the Hawks, who improved on the prior year’s 50-32 mark. Entering the playoffs, on the heels of the Nique-Bird duel… why not Atlanta?
      The window was open for the 4-seed Hawks, as the top-seeded Bad Boys, who easily swept the Celts, awaited their arrival. All Atlanta had to do was to Take Care of Business, on its homecourt, before a heavily partisan crowd. Their opponents? A Milwaukee club the Hawks played, and swept, in the regular season, winning all six times by an average of 11.0 points per game. The core of the same Bucks team that the Hawks bounced, 3 games to 2, out of the first round with a Game 5 home win the prior postseason.
      Milwaukee began that season at a gaudy 40-19 but stumbled across the finish line with 14 losses in the final 23 games, including two versus the Hawks, one in Atlanta by 25 points. Defensive maven Paul Pressey, whose late-season injury greased the skid, would be unavailable for the entire first-round series. Seemingly on his last legs, point guard Sidney Moncrief was about ready to retire.
      This wasn’t the Bucks’ series to win. Not until Atlanta made it that way.
      Including the prior year’s first-round faceoff, the Hawks and Bucks always held serve at home in the playoffs. That was until Game 2 at the Omni, when the Hawks could not contain super-sixth-man Ricky Pierce and Milwaukee cruised to a 108-98 win, wasting Wilkins’ 32-point effort. With the 5-game series turned to the underdogs, the Bucks were in position, at the MECCA, to close out the series upset.
      Wilkins’ contemporary, fellow All-Star and NBA All-3rd-Teamer Terry Cummings, hurt his ankle early in Game 4. Led by All-Stars Moses Malone and Dominique, plus John Battle off the bench, the Hawks capitalized and survived in OT on Milwaukee’s famous Robert Indiana floor. Cummings, like Pressey, was left with no choice but to watch from Wisconsin as the series shifted, for the last time, back to Georgia.
      For the Bucks, with their seasons on the line, there would be no leading scorer, no top defender. Problem?
      “The shot on Ehlo GOOD! BULLS WIN!” was ringing in everyone’s ears that day. Perhaps too loudly, at the Omni, for the Hawks to realize they were getting tuned up by not just Pierce, but Fred Roberts, Paul Mokeski and Jay Humphries. Bucks rookie behemoth Tito Horford didn’t have to lift a finger.
      Thanks to buzzer-beaters sunk by Mokeski and Roberts, and a plethora of missed Hawk free throws, Atlanta could not sustain a lead in any quarter. The Omni crowd felt a wave of relief when the Hawks grabbed an 86-85 lead on the Cummings-less and Pressey-less visitors, with just under three minutes to go in the elimination game. But then Atlanta let the Bucks rattle off eight straight, a Doc Rivers three-pointer proved too little, too late, and all was lost. Including, that date with destiny in Detroit.
      “This will be hard for us to get over,” Wilkins said after the Game 5 loss. He didn’t know the half of it. The next season, Rivers would be out due to injury for two months, Atlanta would sink to 41-41, 6th in the Central Division. Pete Babcock would arrive from Denver to help a busy Stan Kasten run things, and longtime coach Mike Fratello would resign after Atlanta narrowly missed the playoffs, finishing just behind Pierce’s Bucks, coach Lenny’s Cavs and Reggie Miller’s Pacers.
      With Jordan answering the call in 1991 to overtake the Pistons, not Dominique in 1989, the window for the Hawks’ Finals hopes had closed. For at least a few more years.
      Taking Care of home. It’s what likely would have made such a difference for Wilkins and his Hawks at the Omni, as their fates entered the 1990s. With his statue now perched at the entrance to State Farm Arena, and the balance of power in the NBA East once again up for grabs in the 2020s, Taking Care of Home is what would make the difference for a fresh, new group of Hawks to boldly go where no Atlanta team has gone before, the NBA Finals.
      The common denominator? The visiting Milwaukee Bucks (8:30 PM Eastern, TNT, 92.9 FM in ATL, Postgame Coverage on Bally Sports Southeast), in town for Games 3 and 4. No worries, Atlanta! Tito and Mokeski retired long ago.
      Despite a washout loss in Game 2 of this series, the underdog Hawks upset Milwaukee in Game 1, granting themselves the opportunity once more to maintain homecourt advantage and close out coach Mike Budenholzer’s Bucks in no more than six games. But this is a far more challenging visitor than the ’89 Hawks faced, thanks to the whirling dervish that is Giannis Antetokounmpo around the paint.
      Giannis was a rolling, spinning highlight reel in Milwaukee’s 125-91 win on Friday night, but he didn’t need to put up pinball-tilting figures (25 points, 3-for-4 FTs, 9 rebounds in 2.5 quarters). Teammates Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton did the dirty work in pestering Atlanta ace Trae Young (2021 Playoffs-high 3 assists, 9 TOs, 1-for-8 3FGs) while Holiday, Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton (combined 9-for-12 3FGs) hit the key jumpers Atlanta (Traemates combined 8-for-28 3FGs) could not. Multiple Bucks chipping in to balloon the lead gave Giannis, his fellow starters and, by extension, Atlanta’s starters, a respite ahead of Game 3.
      The lack of a secondary ballhandler production, either off the bench or sharing the floor with Young, is a challenge that coach Nate McMillan and the Hawks have to overcome in this three-day homestand. McMillan leaned on Young to sort out his Game 2 struggles to make better reads and connect with teammates for too long. Deploying Lou Williams for longer stretches, as a substitute for either Trae Young or Bogdan Bogdanovic, in combination with a back-in-action Cam Reddish, could make for better balance in the Hawks backcourt.
      With Atlanta getting gashed on the boards in Milwaukee, sixth-man Danilo Gallinari has to expand his focus beyond his patented up-periscope jumpshots and help secure rebounds on defense, when John Collins and Clint Capela are occupied with Antetokounmpo and/or Lopez. Having to rely on Solomon Hill to lead the bench in minutes, as became the case once Atlanta waved the white flag in Game 2, is not a scenario conducive to securing homecourt victories.
      Both Eastern Conference Finals entrants have reason to celebrate reaching this stage. Milwaukee tried tanking in Giannis’ rookie year, were rewarded with Jabari Parker and Thon Maker during the come up, but eventually realized acquiring a sound cast of savvy vets and scrappy prospects around their emerging supernova was the best approach. The Hawks weren’t huge winners in the NBA Draft Lotteries during their rebuilding phases, either. They aren’t tying their successes solely on the haul of Lottery picks, including Reddish and the injured De’Andre Hunter, to get them to this stage and pull them through. Not this year, anyway.
      If Atlanta comes away from Games 3 and 4 with a decided advantage, it’s because veteran supporters, from LouWill to Gallo, stepped up their games when called upon. With better contributions from developed non-Lottery talent like John Collins and Kevin Huerter, the Hawks returning to more competitive rebounding, timely shooting, and proper closeouts on the Bucks’ shooters, will aid in Taking Care of Business before its home fans. This remains the Bucks' playoff series to win, only, if Atlanta allows it to be that way.
      With a year-round focus on competitanking for future game-changing talent in the rear-view mirror, Hawks fans are no longer feeling a draft. Yet here, in the Hawks’ downtown arena, fans recognize there remains, unmistakably, an open window. Take Care, Atlanta!
       
      Let’s Go Hawks!
      ~lw3