‘We’ll be back:’ Hawks’ magical playoff run comes to close

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

With the No. 5 seed Hawks’ 118-107 loss to the Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday at State Farm Arena, a magical playoff run has come to an end.

The Bucks will advance to face the Suns in the NBA Finals.

ExploreMark Bradley: Hawks’ great run is halted, but only for the moment

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. For a team whose preseason goal was to simply make the playoffs, after years of rebuilding and a 20-47 record last year, this Hawks postseason run was astounding. It’s a tough note to end on, but the Hawks going from a 14-20 start to battling the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals is still impressive, and the pieces are there to carry this success over to seasons ahead.

“They are a resilient group. ... They did some things that surprised a lot of people,” Hawks interim coach Nate 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.”

2. After missing games 4 and 5 with a right foot bone bruise sustained in Game 3, Trae Young returned to action in Game 6. He didn’t look like his normal self, though, and was battling through pain in his heel, finishing with 14 points, nine assists, four rebounds and five turnovers. Despite a tough game Sunday, Young still had an excellent first playoff appearance, averaging just under 30 points and 10 assists. The Bucks were still without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who hyperextended his left knee in Game 4. The Hawks battled numerous frustrating injuries all season long, right up to this Game 6 loss.

“Not being able to be out there for my team for two games, and then tonight just wanting to battle and try to fight through it as much as I could and try to be out there for my team, it’s definitely frustrating not being healthy and not being able to give my full 100 percent,” Young said.

3. One interesting question the Hawks will have to address moving forward? That “interim” tag before McMillan’s title. McMillan, an assistant coach at the time, took over for Lloyd Pierce March 1 and that shake-up sparked a 27-11 run to finish the regular season, an astonishing turnaround. Both Hawks GM Travis Schlenk and McMillan had agreed they’d figure out McMillan’s future with the franchise after the season’s conclusion. That conversation will happen soon, per McMillan. Both Young and John Collins (13 points, 11 rebounds) essentially said they’d be surprised to see McMillan not return as head coach.

“This was the conversation when I took over was that you got the team for the year,” McMillan said. “A lot of good things have happened. We’ll talk at the end of the season. So, the end of the season is here, so I’m sure we will have a conversation. But I’ve enjoyed working with this group. I’ve enjoyed working with this organization. I’m sure we’ll have a conversation here soon.”

4. The Hawks gave up 44 points in the third quarter as Khris Middleton got going (finishing with a game-high 32 points) and they entered the fourth quarter down 19. But, they didn’t go quietly, narrowing a once-22 point deficit to six with 3:41 to play. They’ve pulled off insane comebacks on this playoff run, including an 18-point comeback in Game 4 and 26-point comeback in Game 5 vs. Philly in the semifinals. It wasn’t in the cards this time, as the Bucks responded every time the Hawks seemed to be making a run.

5. Leading the charge in the comeback attempt, Cam Reddish was a force in this game, battling to try and keep the Hawks going in the second half. Reddish missed about four months with right Achilles soreness but has looked solid on offense and excellent on defense since returning in Game 4. Saturday, Reddish got hot from 3-point range, knocking down 6 of 7 attempts and finishing with a team-high 21 points, with three rebounds, three assists and one steal.

Bucks 118, Hawks 107 (box score)

Stat of the game

3-for-18 (what the Hawks’ starting lineup shot from 3-point range, struggling to find a shooting rhythm for much of the game)

Star of the game

Middleton (had a game-high 32 points, including 23 in the third quarter to put the Bucks fully in control)

Quotable

“I feel like we’ll be back, and I meant that with my whole heart.” (Young on what he yelled to the crowd as he walked off the court)