The Hawks last advanced in 1961, the Bucks in 1974. Of the two, only the Bucks have won a championship — and that was way back in 1971.
But one of them will finally going back, as each won a Game 7 on the road to reach the Eastern Conference finals.
Interestingly, the Bucks aren’t a big surprise. They finished with the third seed in the East and have a true blue super-duper star in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Of course, the finished with the first seed in the East in each of the past two seasons and Antetokoumpo was named back-to-back MVP each time. And the Bucks still couldn’t make it to the Finals.
As for the Hawks, no one predicted them to get this far. They’re still a relatively young team with the likes of All-Star guard Trae Young and power forward John Collins leading the way. Center Clint Capela and shooting guard Kevin Huerter have also played extremely underrated roles.
And to think their coach, Nate McMillan, was fired by the Pacers at end of last season and is currently carrying an interim tag. What a story.
“There’s no quit in this team,” McMillan said, via Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They continue to work together. They continue to believe. I can’t believe how calm I was throughout this game and I think it just came from the fact that I knew these guys were going to give me everything that they had. They did. To finish a series again on the opponent’s home court, it just shows the growth of this group of men.”
And to think it was just a few weeks ago that everyone was speculating coach Mike Budenholzer was toast after the season. At the time, though, it was probably true. As an aside, the Hawks are the only other team Budenholzer has coached.
“No matter the pressure, no matter what’s going on, we are built for this,” Antetokounmpo said, via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “So we believe in who we are, no matter what happens, win or lose, we’re going to stay together and we’re going to compete.”
Game 1 is set for Wednesday at Milwaukee (TNT, 8:30 p.m. EST).
It’s clear the Bucks have the edge in experience, having been through some serious playoff battles over the past three years. The Hawks’ core is experiencing its own postseason run … but guess what? It hasn’t mattered at all so far.