Milwaukee mauled Atlanta 123-112 in Friday’s Game 5 even as its superstar wasn’t around.
The absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo was hardly felt as the Bucks completely dominated the Hawks, whose own superstar, Trae Young, was in an almost perpetual cringe mode watching his team getting mangled mercilessly.
Like Antetokounmpo, Young was also sidelined by a bone bruise on his right foot after stepping on a referee’s foot earlier in the best-of-seven series.
Antetokounmpo, owner of two NBA MVPs, absorbed a hyperextended left knee injury with 7:14 to go in Game 4’s third quarter, the Hawks leading 62-52. He landed badly after trying to block a dunk by Clint Capela.
With the 6-10 “Greek Freak” in sick bay, Atlanta easily scored a 110-88 Game 4 victory that was marked by a choking defense, limiting Milwaukee to its lowest game output in recent memory.
The win earned Atlanta a 2-2 tie as the Hawks heroically rose from a 113-102 Game 3 loss that saw Olympic-bound Khris Middleton amazingly erupt for 38 points and 11 rebounds in pacing the Bucks.
Anticipation for a second straight win for Atlanta was in the air in the run-up to Game 5 as Antetokounmpo was rumored to sit out the match.
But Antetokounmpo’s support crew stepped up so brilliantly, with the stunning Brook Lopez leading the charge with a playoff career-high of 33 points. Middleton came up big anew with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists, and Jrue Holiday had 25 points to go with 13 assists. Even Bobby Portis Jr., taking Antetokounmpo’s slot, was simply awesome with 22 points.
After building a 30-10 margin, the Bucks never saw themselves seriously threatened as the Hawks struggled with Young stuck game-long at the bench.
With momentum on their side—and Young unsure of playing again on Sunday—the Bucks appear ready to defeat the Hawks anew and win the Eastern Conference title in six games.
Milwaukee hasn’t been in the NBA Finals for nearly half a century, losing to Boston in seven games during the 1974 championship. The Bucks won their only NBA title in 1971 behind Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who emerged the Finals’ MVP after powering his team to a 4-0 sweep of the Baltimore Bullets.
Will the Bucks’ losing drought be over—finally?
As the cliché goes, your guess is as good as mine.