No matter how the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks concludes, it’s safe to say that Nate McMillan has done an admirable job overall. But McMillan would rather have his Hawks team take care of business in Game 6 of the series Saturday night than hear praises. One thing he’s concerned about is his team’s interior defense that was ripped apart in the paint even with Giannis Antetokounmpo absent on the other side.
When asked about the Bucks’ continued dominance in the shaded area in Game 5, McMillan sounded resigned to the idea that his Hawks might not have a solution for that, though that doesn’t mean they will stop themselves from trying to slow down Milwaukee’s inside game (h/t Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype).
Hawks coach Nate McMillan: “I don’t have an answer for that. That’s just not defending at all. We’re being the [punching] bag… We need to switch that around. We need to hit first.”
Even without Antetokounmpo, the Bucks managed to collect 66 points in the paint in Game 6 — 30 more than what Atlanta made. Brook Lopez scored all but seven of his 33 points in the paint, while Bobby Portis chipped in 12 paint points. As a team, the Bucks are averaging 59.6 points in the paint per game, the most among all teams that reached the conference finals round.
For the Hawks, the challenge is having a tighter first level of defense and improvement of their rim protection. They definitely need those to show up this Saturday or risk getting booted out of the playoffs.