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Hawks coach Nate McMillan: Starters can’t play 40+ minutes

Hawks guards Bogdan Bogdanovic and Trae Young vs. Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 26: Bogdan Bogdanovic #13 and Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks embrace during Round 1, Game 2 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2021 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Hawks in their Game 2 loss to the Knicks:

  • With Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic: +5 in 35 minutes
  • Without Young and Bogdanovic: -14 in 13 minutes

Why didn’t Atlanta just play its top players more, especially in the second half as New York pulled ahead?

Hawks coach Nate McMillan, via Chris Kirschner of The Athletic:
“Our starters played 35-plus minutes. That’s a lot of minutes for those guys,” McMillan said. “Trae plays 35. Bogi plays 35. Clint is at 36. That’s a lot of minutes for starters. That’s probably a little more than they average during the regular season. I thought tonight because they played 17, 18 minutes in that first half, I thought they wore down in the second half. We really didn’t have anything coming out of that second half. We only scored 18, 17 points in that third and fourth quarter. We weren’t pushing the ball. We were walking (with) the ball. I thought we got a little gassed in that first half. I think we have to give those guys a little breather. They’re not going to be able to play 40-48 minutes.”

“That’s our normal rotation,” McMillan said. “Trae normally comes back in that eight-, nine-minute mark. Again, Trae played 35 minutes. It’s a two-, three-possession game. About 10 minutes to go on the clock. You got to give your bench some time to try to get something going.”

He then added later: “They played most of the fourth. We got them out late in the fourth because New York was making a run. I tried to get them rest for a few minutes in that fourth quarter and it was a three-, four-possession game with eight, nine minutes to go in the game. It was really enough time for our starters to get back into the game and get control of the game. I was fine with my rotation.”

Young averaged 33.7 minutes per game in the regular season. He played more than he did in Game 2 a total of 25 times, peaking at 42 minutes.

Bogdanovic averaged 29.7 minutes per game in the regular season. He played more than he did in Game 2 a total of 13 times, peaking at 40 minutes.

To be fair, playoff intensity is higher. Postseason minutes are more draining.

Atlanta’s offense did sputter in the third quarter even with Young and Bogdanovic on the floor. Maybe it would have gotten worse if they played more. McMillan knows more about their conditioning level than I do.

But the Hawks were absolutely dreadful – a 59.3 offensive rating (!) throughout Game 2 – when Young and Bogdanovic sat. Atlanta ought to minimize those minutes as much as reasonably possible.

It’s hard to believe McMillan is doing that. The coach hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt, either.

Young and Bogdanovic played all their minutes together in Game 2. There should be some consideration to staggering them. But they accentuate each other well. Bogdanovic’s secondary playmaking has made Atlanta’s offense more effective than last season, when Young dominated the ball even more.

The Hawks have kept their head above water with Lou Williams as backup lead guard. Atlanta’s offensive/defensive/net ratings in the regular season with Williams and neither Young nor Bogdanovic: 105.2/106.4/-1.2. Those lineups were even better in Game 1: 110.0/90.9/+19.1.

So, staggering Young and Bogdanovic isn’t necessarily the solution.

But whether together or apart, they should probably just play more.