The Atlanta Hawks have the most important game of their season coming up at home on Tuesday. Down 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks will look to even up the series during game four, or else they risk their season ending.
If they have any chance of winning against Milwaukee Bucks, they will need to do the best they can to defend the former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo. And this is where former USC baller Onyeka Okongwu comes in.
The Hawks rookie has gotten some valuable playoff experience this postseason appearing in 15 games for Nate McMillan's team. While they haven't needed him too much offensively, the defense of Okongwu has been sensational all season, including in the playoffs.
Already having played against MVP candidate Joel Embiid, Okongwu's next task has been to guard Giannis for stretches at a time when starting center Clint Capela needs a breather or gets in foul trouble. And in game three, the No. 6 overall pick showcased his defensive skillset against one of the NBA's best players.
During seven important minutes of the fourth quarter of game 3, Okongwu played sensational defense on Giannis, forcing two turnovers and blocking a shot while the Hawks were trying to hold on. The former Trojan even scored a couple of buckets in the quarter to help star guard Trae Young offensively.
Unfortunately for the Hawks and Okongwu, all-star Khris Middleton took control of the contest leading Milwaukee to a comeback victory on the road. Nonetheless, Okongwu played great minutes and showed that he can be a force in stopping Giannis defensively and got high praise from his coach following the game.
"Okongwu showed great energy, especially on the defensive side of the ball. He's got to continue to play valuable minutes for us and we will need his abilities for the rest of the series," McMillan said. Game four debuts in Atlanta, Tuesday at 5:30 PT.
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