The Milwaukee Bucks used a 44-point third quarter and a 23-point scoring binge by swingman Khris Middleton to beat the Hawks 118-107 in Game Six of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. The Bucks will make their first NBA Finals appearance since 1974.
Middleton finished with 32 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and three steals. His backcourt mate, Jrue Holiday, scored 27 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and four steals.
“My teammates and my coaches, they told me to keep being aggressive,” Middleton said. “I love it. Each one of these guys, they work every single day. Everybody stays ready. Everybody stays locked in. We all play for each other. And that’s all you can ask for.”
The Bucks did not have two-time MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo for the second straight game with an hyper-extended knee.
“One of the biggest things we did the last two games was play for him,” said Pat Connaughton, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. “We do have a true team.”
Milwaukee led throughout after racing to a 15-4 in first quarter, then blowing the game wide open in the third. The Bucks led 47-45 early in the third quarter after a layup from Hawks center Clint Capela, but Middleton scored thirteen straight points to give Milwaukee a 60-45 edge. Their largest lead was 24 points. However, a furious Atlanta rally saw the Hawks cut the Bucks’ lead to six in the fourth quarter. However, the young Hawks ran out of gas down the stretch.
The Bucks will face off against the Phoenix Suns with Game One scheduled for Tuesday Night.
Atlanta forward Cam Reddish had a great game off the bench, scoring a team-high 21 points and hitting six of seven three-pointers. Trae Young, in his first game back from a bone bruise in his ankle, scored 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting and went 0-for-6 from three-point range. Young also had nine assists and five turnovers.
At the end of the game, Hawks owner Tony Ressler applauded the team off the court. After the game, Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan told reporters contract talks will begin, with the hopes of becoming the team’s permanent head coach.
“I think this group shocked the NBA,” said McMillan during his post game press conference.
“I feel like we’ll be back, and I meant that with my whole heart,” Trae Young added.
As for the Atlanta Hawks, their season ends tonight. However, this team is left with plenty of positives. McMillan took over the Hawks when they were 11th in the Eastern Conference, had the third worst defensive rating in the NBA and only had aspirations of participating in the NBA’s play-in tournament. In four months, McMillan had Atlanta two wins away from playing for an NBA championship. This series loss is not equal to the Falcons’ 28-3 debacle in Super Bowl LI or the Braves’ collapse in the 2020 NLCS. The Hawks have a bright future ahead.
“They are a resilient group. … They did some things that surprised a lot of people,” McMillan said. “We talked about shocking the NBA. I think this group this year, they did shock the NBA with their sacrificing and their commitment to each other, the trust that they showed, the work that they put in to get to this point.”
The summer vacations beckon for the Hawks, here are the players who will be out of contract: Tony Snell, Lou Williams, Brandon Goodwin, Solomon Hill, Skylar Mays, and Nathan Knight. Kris Dunn has a player option. Lastly, John Collins is a restricted free agent.