Neither the Atlanta Hawks nor Milwaukee Bucks have ever won an Eastern Conference title, but that will change soon as the clubs meet in a rather unlikely conference finals that tips off Wednesday night from Milwaukee. The Bucks are shockingly high 8-point favorites at William Hill Sportsbook with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo given an Over/Under of 32.5 points. The two injury questions for Game 1 are Atlanta's Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish, both questionable.
Let's say off the top we expect both to play. Bogdanovic left Game 6 of the last round vs. Philadelphia with knee troubles and was a game-time call for Game 7 on Sunday, but he played – this is the postseason, after all. That injury does appear to be limiting the Serb, however, as he totaled just 17 points in the final three games vs. Philadelphia after scoring at least 14 in each of the first four.
Reddish has been out since late February with an Achilles' injury but was medically cleared during the 76ers series and had been practicing, so there's a good chance he plays Wednesday as he has been "upgraded" to questionable – although surely quite limited minutes. Reddish, a 2019 lottery pick, averaged 11.2 points and 4.0 rebounds in the regular season and the Hawks could use wing help with De'Andre Hunter lost for the season after the Knicks series.
Atlanta is the third team since 1984 to make the conference finals despite having a losing record at the All-Star break (16-20), joining the 2012 Celtics and the 1984 Suns. The Hawks are the first team to reach the conference finals without an All-Star since the 1994 Pacers.
As for the Greek Freak, he's averaging 28.8 points in these playoffs but hit the 30-point mark in six of the seven games last round vs. Brooklyn – topped by 40 in Saturday's epic Game 7 win when Giannis played 50 minutes. He is still struggling from deep (19.1 percent) and from the free-throw line (53.8 percent). Those aren't quite Ben Simmons numbers, but concerning. Milwaukee (which has won a Western Conference title) was 2-1 vs. Atlanta during the regular season and Giannis averaged 24.3 points.
Milwaukee is 5-0 at home in these playoffs, but wow 8 points is a large spread in a conference finals game, so this writer is taking the points. Atlanta hasn't been that big of a dog since April 28 in Philadelphia; the Hawks weren't above +7 in the last round vs. the Sixers.
Consider that the Hawks are 35-15 (.700) since March 1, the most wins and highest winning percentage in the East in that span. That marks the date coach Lloyd Pierce was fired and replaced by Nate McMillan. Of course, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer coached the Hawks from 2013-18.
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