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Hawks unable to find footing in Game 2 of Eastern finals; Bucks win 125-91

Atlanta is now 1-1 in the series after pulling out the win on Wednesday night but losing on Friday.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks had a remarkable opportunity on Friday night to put the favored Milwaukee Bucks in a daunting hole and forge a clear path to the NBA Finals.

Unfortunately for Atlanta fans, the game ended with a major win for Milwaukee, ending Game 2 with a 125-91 victory.

They've been in this position before, of course, twice already in the playoffs, and fell flat both times. They were hoping that, on Friday, the third time would be the charm.

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The previous Game 2 letdowns for Atlanta have included a 9-point loss in New York in the first round - their only loss in that series - and an even worse 16-point loss in Philadelphia in the second round.

The basics

  • Who: Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks
  • What: Eastern Conference Finals Game 2
  • When: 8:30 p.m. ET tonight, June 25
  • Where: Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • TV: TNT

What needs to be different in this Game 2 in order to avoid those previous fates? Pretty simply, it starts and ends with Trae Young.

Young had perhaps his best performance yet of the playoffs in Game 1, with 48 points on 17-34 shooting to carry the Hawks on his back in the narrow 116-113 win. It's hard to imagine Atlanta pulling out a similarly close game if he slips at all.

That doesn't mean he needs to score 48 points again, but when Young is on, it makes it a lot more realistic that the Hawks can beat a team like Milwaukee than if he's gone cold and everyone else has to pick up the slack (though, not impossible as Game 7 against Philly showed us.)

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The Hawks will also likely need to play better defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo to keep the Bucks on their back heels in Game 2. He mostly was able to do what he wanted in Game 1, with 34 points, 9 assists and 12 rebounds on 14-25 shooting. Milwaukee couldn't ride that performance to a win largely because Khris Middleton (15 points on 6-23 shooting, minus-13 plus-minus) and Brook Lopez (7 points, 2 rebounds, minus-14 plus-minus) had terrible games.

Middleton and Lopez aren't likely to be as bad again, but if you slow Giannis down a bit more, you can split that difference.

The other thing that would give Atlanta a big boost would be Bogdan Bogdanovic recovering his game. The Serbian has scored just 21 combined points in the last four games, and shot an awful 26.5% (9-34) in that span.

One thing the Hawks can take solace in is Game 2 is definitely not must-win for them - they've proven that twice already.