Eastern Conference Finals: Hawks vs Bucks Preview
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Our Eastern Conference matchup is finally set after two Game 7s in the Conference semifinals. The fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks will take on the third-seed Milwaukee Bucks. This is not the matchup many foresaw, but injuries and ineffectiveness plagued the two top teams in the East, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia.
Milwaukee is the heavy betting favorite to advance to the NBA Finals -475 to win the series. Game 1 will take place on Wednesday night at 8:30 PM EST. The host Bucks have opened as -7 favorites. Let’s familiarize ourselves with each team and how they match up as we prepare for the Eastern Conference Finals.
- Odds to win series: Atlanta +350 | Milwaukee -475
- Game 1 spread: MIL -7
- Game 1 over/under: 227 points
- Odds series goes 7 games: +300
Atlanta Hawks Playoff Journey
Atlanta began the playoffs with an upset win over the Knicks, owners of the top overall defense in the NBA. Performing that well offensively against an elite defense highlighted the legitimacy of this Atlanta team.
The Hawks own a well-balanced team on both ends and displayed that in Round 1.
Atlanta drew the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the conference semifinals, once again as underdogs. Going in the Hawks' favor was the injury status of star center Joel Embiid leading up to the beginning of the series.
The Sixers big man had a slight tear in his meniscus, and his status was in question. Embiid ended up gutting it out for the series and was overall effective throughout. Atlanta took Game 1 against Philadelphia before going down two games to one. The Hawks showed their resilience in Games 4 and 5, authoring two monster comebacks. Atlanta trailed by 18 points in Game 4, coming back to win.
Game 5 was even more impressive, with the Hawks trailing by 26 points at one point, fighting back, and winning in regulation.
Philly righted the ship for a Game 6 win, meaning it all came down to Game 7 in Philadelphia. The Hawks prevailed, winning 103-96, advancing to their first Eastern Conference Finals since 2015.
Trae Young has shouldered most of the scoring for Atlanta in these playoffs, averaging 29.1 points per game in the two series. Against Philadelphia, Young averaged 29.0 ppg and 10.9 assists. Despite shooting just 5-23 from the field in Game 7, Young distributed the ball well and scraped his way to 21 points.
Beyond Young, it’s been a balanced offensive attack for Atlanta, with six more players all averaging points in the double digits. Forward John Collins is averaging 13.9 points and 8.3 rebounds these playoffs.
Clint Capela is averaging a double-double: 10.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
- Atlanta’s betting numbers in these playoffs.
- Against the spread: 8-4
- Over/under: 3-9
Milwaukee Bucks Playoff Journey
The Bucks looked the part of a championship contender in the first round, easily sweeping the Miami Heat.
Milwaukee’s second-round series got off to a rough start, going down 2-0 to Brooklyn. The series seemed over after losing by nearly 40 points in Game 2.
The Bucks stayed resilient, and partly due to a few Nets injuries to James Harden and Kyrie Irving, they evened the series at two games apiece.
Brooklyn then took Game 5, with the Bucks closing out the series with two straight wins. Game 7 was a back-and-forth affair, with Brooklyn coming back and forcing overtime. Kevin Durant was an inch away from a game-winner at the buzzer, but with his foot on the line, only two points were rewarded.
In an ugly overtime period, Milwaukee did enough to win, taking down the Nets 115-111 and winning the series.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has gotten some slack for his poor free-throw shooting, and rightfully so, averaging just a hair over 50% from the line.
Still, he scored when it mattered most and led this team in most major categories. Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.8 points per game in the playoffs to go along with 13.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists. Khris Middleton has also had a strong scoring output, averaging 23.3 points per game.
Jrue Holiday has done a bit of everything for the Bucks, averaging 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 1.4 steals.
- Milwaukee’s betting numbers in these playoffs.
- Against the spread: 6-5
- Over/under: 3-7-1
These two teams are more even than you may think. The Bucks have a better offense, but the Hawks arguably have a stronger defense. Trae Young is going to have his challenges against a strong defensive guard in Jrue Holiday, but Young has performed against two of the best defenses in the NBA.
John Collins matches up well on Antetokounmpo, and this series feels like it could get chippy. The preferred bet here is to bet the under, especially at an opening line of 227. These two teams have two of the worst at hitting their overs this postseason. The Hawks continue to get no respect from oddsmakers, evidenced by the seven-point spread in Game 1. Consider betting Atlanta to cover in Game 1 and in most games this series.
The Bucks are probably the better team, but -475 is extremely poor value to place a wager on. If you like Milwaukee in this series, you may be better served betting them to win the NBA Finals, with odds currently at -110.
I like Atlanta to win the series at +350, as they’ve proven themselves to be diverse on the offensive end and strong defensively. Don’t sleep on the Hawks.
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Derek is a long time sports bettor who grew up in Providence, RI. Derek is data driven and believes the key to betting the sportsbooks is finding an edge in analytics. Derek is happily married and has two young boys. Derek will bet on anything if you let him.