Mr. Sonic, Mr. Northwest, or Miracle Alien Cookies (Mac), whichever alias, Head Coach Nate McMillan and his Atlanta Hawks are two wins away from making the NBA Finals.
The seven-year coach of the Portland Trail Blazers and long-time organizational member of the Seattle Supersonics is redefining his reputation on Ludacris’s home turf.
After a marvelous game four performance against the Milwaukee Bucks, the series is now tied at two games apiece, heading into today’s Eastern Conference Finals Game 5 matchup. And while this series is still too early to call, the last round’s upset against the Philadelphia 76ers is not.
From a talent standpoint, McMillan’s club was outmatched by most measures. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris prove a dangerous trio; they didn’t earn the No. 1 seed by accident. However, Mr. Sonic found a way to get his team to compete fueled by the dynamic performance of Trae Young.
Outside of their star point guard, how many of these names do you know? John Collins, Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter? These guys average more than 30 minutes per game in the postseason; however, it is important to note that Hunter has only played five games due to injury.
Some more recognizable veteran names on their roster include Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, and Lou Williams.
And while these are all valuable pieces on any team, this is the NBA, and it usually takes more than terrific role players to make a run to the finals.
There’s a reason why in “Drake’s” song “ 6 Man” his lyrics read “ 6 man like Lou Will.”
Drake also has a song named “Trophies.” He does not speak of Williams on this track.
Nevertheless, Mac’s team is finding a way to get it done on the biggest stage, and it’s largely due to their commitment to the defensive side of the ball. So far in the postseason, the Hawks are only allowing 106.2 PPG, which is 5th best among all playoff teams. This is good for third among the remaining four.
It’s also because of the play of Young; in the postseason, the point guard phenom is averaging 29.8 PPG, 9.5 AST, and 1.3 STL’s.
The tremendous run of Mr. Northwest’s Hawks has been well-covered over the past few weeks. It’s one of the few feel-good stories in an injury-riddled NBA right now.
But it’s a really really really good feel story for the Pacific Northwest.
He has proven an integral figure in PNW basketball, whether you are a Blazers or Sonics fan. He is a phenomenal man who has seemingly done everything right but has never won a championship at the highest level.
This is actually his first appearance as a head coach in the conference finals.
And while he was an excellent leader for both NW franchises, his teams never crossed over into that elite threshold. With Seattle, he never advanced past the second round. His 2004-05 led Sups proved his best outing in the postseason before this year. He found more consistent success with Portland but struggled in the playoffs with three first-round eliminations from 2008-11.
In Indiana he also never advanced past the opening round in four years.
If it weren’t for this surprising run in Atlanta, he would’ve likely been a long-forgotten journeyman coach. Maybe even the PNW would’ve forgotten about their long-time leader?
But now, he’s only two wins away from making the NBA Finals.