Did the Hawks play soft in Game 5? Here’s what the coach told our Zach Klein

ATLANTA — Even with their superstar on the sidelines, the Atlanta Hawks improbable run toward the NBA Finals looked more and more promising -- then Game 5 started.

Now the Milwaukee Bucks are just one win away from finishing off the Hawks and earning their first NBA Finals berth in nearly half a century.

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Milwaukee never trailed in a 123-112 victory over the Hawks on Thursday night that gave them a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

It seemed like a perfect time for the Hawks to take advantage of an injury to two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, even with guard Trae Young on the bench with his own injury. Instead Milwaukee turned the tables.

“Coach, you mentioned the physicality, owning the paint, getting hit in the mouth. Do you think your guys were soft tonight?” Channel 2 sports director Zach Klein asked Hawks interim-coach Nate McMillan.

“I said what I said. You can use whatever term you want. They were the more physical team tonight. They were the more aggressive team tonight. We did not do a good job of guarding the ball, guarding our paint, rebounding the basketball. With that punch early they just established their game tonight,” McMillan said.

“How do you expect them to respond?” Klein asked.

“I expect us to respond. It’s do or die,” McMillan answered.

The Bucks players confirmed their strategy after the game.

“We felt like those games in Atlanta, whether it was energy from the crowd or whatever it was, they swung and punched us in the mouth. We didn’t want to take any chances,” Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. “We wanted to come out strong and hit first.”

Game 6 is Saturday in Atlanta, with the winner of the series facing the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.

Stay with Channel 2 Action News as the Hawks close in on a possible trip to the Finals. We have live Team 2 coverage in Atlanta and then back in Milwaukee for a potential Game 7.

Steve Megargee with the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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