Game preview, injury report, projected starting lineups

The Atlanta Hawks have a big opportunity ahead of them tonight, but they’ll have to get through Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks if they want to win their fifth straight and move closer to the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings.

It’s been a wild week for Atlanta. They came back from a trip to the West Coast and dominated Charlotte, came back from 30 points down and beat Boston, beat Portland and then Dejounte Murray scored 44 points and hit the game-winning field goal in overtime against Boston on Thursday. Atlanta has started playing well when it matters most and they will look to build on that tonight.

They can also get some reinforcements. Jalen Johnson (sprained right foot) was upgraded to questionable yesterday and he could make his return from injuring his ankle in a loss against the Lakers. Milwaukee will be missing one of their key pieces tonight as Damian Lillard will be unable to suit up. However, the Bucks have Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton and will be tough to deal with in this 2021 Eastern Conference Finals rematch.

So how do these two teams match up?

Game preview

With Trae Young out, Dejounte Murray has had to take it upon himself to create more offense for the Hawks and he has done so, none more evident than last game against Boston. Murray shot the ball 44 times, including 19 threes, and scored 44 points, and the Hawks needed every one of them. The Bucks don’t have guards like Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, and on paper, this is an easier matchup for him as a scorer. I don’t know if he scores over 40 again, but he should have the shooting volume.

Bogdan Bogdanovic has played well this week, especially in the two games against the Celtics. His three-point shooting has dipped below 30% in the last two games, but he’s still getting to the basket and scoring. He could also benefit from a weaker Milwaukee perimeter defense.

After having the game of his life on Monday against Boston, Vit Krejci has scored nine points in the last two games after. The Hawks don’t need him to score much, but the offense is better when he can hit threes and contribute offensively. If Johnson returns tonight, Krejci could go to the bench, if Johnson doesn’t come off the bench.

De’Andre Hunter is back in the starting lineup with Johnson out and I don’t see the Hawks moving him. He is playing big minutes now that he is on a minutes restriction after his injury. He shot the ball well from three in both games against Boston and will likely be tasked with guarding Middleton tonight.

It will be interesting to see how the Hawks use Johnson tonight if he plays. Will he start and play his normal amount of minutes? Will he come off the bench? Atlanta could use him again, but there’s no need to rush him.

The player who might be the most important for the Hawks tonight is Clint Capela, who is playing his best basketball of the season. Capela has a double-double in 10 of his last 11 games, and one area where the Bucks struggle is rebounding. The Hawks scored 28 second-chance points against the Celtics on Thursday, and that was the difference in the game. He may also spend time guarding Giannis tonight.

The Hawks bench players have played well during this streak, especially Garrison Matthews. Matthews is shooting the ball well from three and brings the scoring off the bench. Bruno Fernando, Trent Forrest and Wesley Matthews are other guys you’ll see tonight.

The Hawks come into this game 5th in PPG, 20th in field goal percentage, 7th in three-point attempts, 17th in three-point percentage, 6th in 2nd in free throw attempts, 2nd in offensive rebounds and 14th in turnovers. Per Cleaning the Glass, Atlanta is 8th in points per 100 possessions, 16th in field goal percentage, 10th in turnover percentage, 5th in offensive rebound percentage and 10th in free throw percentage.

The Bucks are one of the best offensive teams in the NBA, but their defense can be picked this year, which is different from Milwaukee’s teams of the past few years. However, the offense will take a hit tonight without Lillard.

Bucks offense comes into this game 4th in PPG, 7th in field goal percentage, 6th in three-point attempts, 8th in three-point percentage, 2nd in attempts in free throws, 28th in offensive rebounding and 10th in turnovers. Per Cleaning the Glass, they are 5th in points per 100 possessions, 4th in effective field goal percentage, 6th in turnover percentage, 27th in offensive rebounding percentage and 4th in free throw percentage.

Atlanta’s defense hasn’t changed much in terms of numbers over the last 15 or so games. They are 28th in PPG allowed, 27th in field goal percentage allowed and 28th in three-point percentage allowed. Per Cleaning the Glass, Atlanta is 26th in points allowed per 100 possessions and 29th in effective field goal percentage.

Finding a way to slow down Giannis and prevent him from dominating the game, winning on the boards and effective three-point shooting is how the Hawks will likely need to win tonight.

Damage report

Jalen Johnson is questionable with a sprained right ankle, while Saddiq Bey (left knee ACL tear), Kobe Bufkin (left big toe sprain), AJ Griffin (right ankle sprain), Mouhamed Gueye (sprained right UCL), Trae Young (torn left fifth ligament) and Onyeka Okongwu (sprained left big toe) are all out for the Hawks tonight.

Damian Lillard is out for the Bucks while Giannis, Middleton, MarJon Beauchamp and Pat Beverley are possible.

Bet viewing and information

Briefing time: 7:30 pm Eastern time

Location: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA

Where to watch: NBA League Pass, Bally Sports Southeast, NBATV

Spread and Over/Under: The Hawks will be underdogs at home tonight, as they are currently a 3.5-point underdog according to the latest odds from SI Sportsbook and the over/under is set at 224.5.

Predicted starting lineups

Hawks:

G- Bogdan Bogdanovic

G- Dejounte Murray

F- Vit Krejci

F- De’Andre Hunter

C – Clint Capela

If Johnson plays, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts over Krejci and he comes off the bench.

Bucks:

G- Pat Beverley

G- Malik Beasley

F—Chris Middleton

F- Giannis Antetokounmpo

C-Brook Lopez

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