Eastern Conference Finals X-Factors 2020-21
The Eastern Conference Finals took a big swing as Giannis suffered a knee injury in game four. This comes after a freak accident in game three where Trae Young twisted his ankle after stepping on a ref’s foot. After the Atlanta Hawks’ surprising game four win, the series is now tied at two games apiece. We have already gone over who will be the x-factors in the Western Conference Finals, now it is time to identify the two x-factors going forward in these Eastern Conference Finals. Will it be the complimentary stars to Giannis and Trae? Could it be a couple of role players coming off the bench? Without further adieu, let’s delve into the x-factors.
X-Factors in the 2020-21 Eastern Conference Finals
X-Factor for the Milwaukee Bucks
Since it is unclear when Giannis will return, Khris Middleton is going to now have a heavy load to shoulder for the rest of the series. He may not be a superstar, but he is an All-Star for a reason. He is capable of having an off game as he did in game four. However, he is also liable to erupt for a 50-point game. Now, he is going to be the focal point of the offense in game five and probably going forward. This will result in many more touches which will lead in turn, to more scoring chances.
The other thing about Middleton being the first option is that he will have to be a playmaker, something he is not usually accustomed to when Giannis is in the lineup. So far in these playoffs, Middleton is averaging 4.7 assists per game. In this series, he is tallying 6.0 assists to go along with 21.0 points, and 7.8 rebounds per game. Looking at these numbers, the potential to be a scorer and a facilitator is there, he just needs to find some consistency. Especially if the Bucks want to have any shot of making the NBA Finals without the two-time league MVP.
X-Factor for the Atlanta Hawks
Everyone knows that Trae Young is the engine that drives the Atlanta Hawks. However, there is one player who is criminally underrated who is arguably the second-best player on this team. I am talking about John Collins. Going into these Eastern Conference Finals, Collins was tasked with possibly the hardest job of these playoffs. Having to contain Giannis while still providing something on the offensive end whether it be grabbing offensive rebounds or points in the paint. With Giannis now out for the foreseeable future, Collins’ job has now gotten extremely easier. While guys like Young, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Kevin Huerter can burn you from deep, it can make teams overlook the Hawks’ frontcourt of Collins and Clint Capela.
Collins is a very solid scorer. For the playoffs, he is averaging 13.6 points on 55.4 percent shooting from the field to combine with 8.6 rebounds per game. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Collins is tallying 12.8 points on 58.5 percent shooting to couple with 9.5 rebounds per game. He may not be getting many touches when the Hawks are attempting 38 three-point shots, but when he gets his chance, he converts. Look for John Collins and Khris Middleton to be the difference makers going forward in these Eastern Conference Finals.