Bucks could use Sunday as rest day vs. Hawks
While there will be nothing at stake Sunday evening in Milwaukee, and with the Bucks on the second night of back-to-back games, there appears to be little reason for them to break too much of a sweat in a matchup against the Atlanta Hawks.
Then again, pride has a way of changing things.
In their next-to-last game before the playoffs begin next weekend, the top-seeded Bucks could feel as if they have a score to settle with the Hawks, who will be watching from home when the month-long postseason journey begins.
Just one week prior, the Hawks planted a 136-135 overtime victory on the Bucks in Atlanta, a game that MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo missed because he tweaked his right ankle in the Bucks' previous game, a win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Atlanta loss was the Bucks' only defeat in a seven-game stretch, going back to the first win in the span on March 22, before they lost Saturday to the Brooklyn Nets.
After clinching the top seed through the end of the NBA playoffs with a victory at Philadelphia on Thursday, Antetokounmpo did not play against the Nets in the 133-128 defeat. He was listed with a left calf injury.
"I would not term it resting," head coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters before the game.
So how will the Bucks handle players' minutes against the Hawks after four of five starters played at least 29 minutes Saturday?
"I'm not a coach, I'm not a trainer, but I could see us resting some guys," the Bucks' Brook Lopez said before the team's final three games of the season. "But at the same time, we're a very competitive group, and I know none of us like losing."
The defeat to the Hawks last Sunday came when rookie Trae Young struggled from the field but was able to hit the game-winner on a catch-and-shoot in the lane as the overtime buzzer sounded.
Also missing that game for the Bucks were second-leading scorer Khris Middleton, because of a sore groin, and floor leader Eric Bledsoe, as the point guard received a day of rest.
The Hawks didn't celebrate the victory any less than if the trio had played, and they figured to be well motivated Sunday even if the Bucks' stars get reduced minutes this time around.
The Hawks will enter off a 149-113 defeat at Orlando on Friday, when they allowed 81 points in the first half, so a better brand of defense could be expected Sunday no matter who the Bucks put on the court.
The Hawks have shown they still have solid games left in them, like their 130-122 victory over the No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. In that game, Young had his 17th contest this season with at least 20 points and 10 assists. Only James Harden and Russell Westbrook have more.
Before the Hawks beat the Bucks last weekend, Young had an 18-point first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in yet another sign that his confidence is building and his growth has continued.
Only Young and Oscar Robertson have scored 1,400 points with 600 assists as a rookie.
"You could see it coming out. He was cooking, doing his thing," Hawks forward John Collins said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "No one is really going to stop him when a guy gets hot like that."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 6, 2019