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For Nate McMillan, keys to Atlanta Hawks winning Game 6 start with Game 5 loss

The interim coach repeatedly emphasized the magnitude of preventing inside dominance from Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis for Atlanta to avoid elimination Saturday.

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night’s 123-112 Game 5 loss for the Atlanta Hawks to the Milwaukee Bucks gave Hawks’ interim coach Nate McMillan a bit of deja vu.

“We did not come out prepared for the intensity of that game,” McMillan said. “Very similar to Game 2 when they jumped on us. For whatever reason, the intensity, we talked about the level of intensity we needed to come out with. They basically hit us in the mouth early and really established the physicality of the game.”

Missing two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ attack was led by frontcourt veterans Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis. Milwaukee’s aggressive start got the home team out to a 14-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

“They were going to be in attack mode, and we didn’t really respond, certainly not in that first quarter,” McMillan said. “The next three quarters, we did a little better job and were able to fight our way back into the game, but they established the tempo of that game right from the start.”

Now facing elimination for the second time this postseason, McMillan said the Hawks’ focus for tonight’s game starts with looking back at Thursday night.

“Defensively, 28 points in the first quarter in the paint, I don’t have an answer for that,” McMillan said. “That was just not defending at all, not helping at all, really a dominant performance by Milwuakee attacking us in the paint.”

The interim coach said he’s been talking to team about establishing its defense for a full 48 minutes.

“You’re not going to play perfect basketball for 48 minutes, but you have to establish your defense and the pressure that you’re going to need to play with in that first quarter,” he said. “I always say the start of the game, and we just did not do that. They were basically walking to the rim on us.”

As far as the Atlanta’s best offensive player Trae Young’s status returning from a right foot bone bruise he suffered in Game 3, McMillan said he had no clue during Friday’s media availability.

“I have nothing for you,” McMillan told the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore in the session, before smiling.

Game 6 tips off at 8:30 p.m. tonight at State Farm Arena.