3 keys for the Milwaukee Bucks MLK Day matchup vs the Atlanta Hawks

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JUNE 25 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JUNE 25 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton, Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young
Jul 3, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks will have a much easier time on offense against the Atlanta Hawks

Although the Hawks have the league’s second-best offense, they’re still eight games under 0.500 at 17-25 and have gone 6-16 in their last 22 games. It’s not rocket science to guess why!

That’s right, their defense is horrendous! They have the third-worst defensive rating in the league at 113.8. They’re worse than the Sacramento Kings, who can’t guard anyone!

By some miracle, the Bucks only posted a 104.7 offensive rating in their first meeting with the Hawks, but having Middleton back will be huge in that regard. There are few, if any, players on Atlanta’s roster that can credibly guard Middleton one-on-one (especially so since they traded Cam Reddish who was fine in the Conference Finals on Middleton).

I outlined why the Raptors’ defense has been so successful against the Bucks as of late, which is due to their length and activity. The Hawks, uh, do not have that same length and activity, to put it lightly. They’ll also be without Clint Capela tonight so, good luck defending Giannis Antetokounmpo, Hawks!

If there was one aspect of their defense that’s worse than the other (in terms of half-court vs. transition), it is without question their transition defense. Per Cleaning the Glass (subscription required), they have the second-worst transition defense in the league (as opposed to the fourth-worst half-court defense).

Some of that comes from their cross-matching (due to not wanting Young to get caught defending someone like Middleton) which leads to disorganization, but they’re also simply a lazy transition defense.

I’ve noted that the Bucks have struggled with their transition offense this season, but tonight should not be one of those nights.