With their star man Giannis Antetokounmpo absent, the Milwaukee Bucks produced a fine team display to cover for his absence as they took a vital 3-2 lead in their Conference Championship series against the Atlanta Hawks.
With the Phoenix Suns awaiting the winner of this series in the NBA Championship series, it was the Bucks who coped best of the two teams, both of whom were without their star men.
Hawks’ star Trae Young, who has been in sensational form throughout the playoffs, was also side-lined for Atlanta with a bruised bone in his foot and it was the Hawks that perhaps more keenly felt the absence of their free scoring superstar as they went down to a 123-112 defeat in Game 5.
Four Bucks with 20+ PTS tonight 🔥
Lopez: 33 PTS
Middleton: 26 PTS & 13 REB
Jrue: 25 PTS & 13 AST
Portis: 22 PTS pic.twitter.com/FDxN50yxlJ
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) July 2, 2021
Quick Start From The Bucks
As has so often been the case in games in the playoffs, it was a fast start by one of the teams that effectively wrestled control of the game. This time, it was the Bucks that jumped out into a 36-22 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The Hawks did reduce that by five come the end of the second, but by the end of the third the Bucks had extended the lad by four once again and then they kept the Hawks at arm’s length in the fourth quarter to register a vital win.
With Giannis knee scan showing no internal damage, he watched on as four of his teammates combined for all but 17 of the Bucks points in the game.
Center Brook Lopez top-scored with 33, Khris Middleton added 26, Jrue Holiday 25 and Bobby Portis 22. Holiday also had 6 rebounds and 13 assists while Middleton had 13 rebounds and 8 assists.
The Hawks obviously missed Young’s scoring ability with only Bogdan Bogdanovic scoring over 20 points in the game (28 in total), with Danilo Galinari and John Collins both adding 19 each.
The Bucks were particularly dominant in the paint, scoring 66 points to 36 from the Hawks, while the Hawks 14 turnovers also proved to be costly.
“Great Job Of Playing Together”
Speaking after the win, Bucks star Brook Lopez, whose 33 points haul was a season-high for the center, commented:
“I thought we just did a great job of playing together. Khris, Jrue did their normal job of making plays for everyone.”
“When everyone is scoring, everyone is doing their thing, that’s tough for a defence. It’s tough for them to make a decision and a commitment.”
In contrast, Hawks coack Nate McMillian admitted his team never recovered from their slow start.
“They were more physical. They hit us in the mouth and we just did not recover from that,” he lamented in his press conference following the game.
Suns Await Winner After 4-2 Cutting Down Clippers
The sixth game in the series will be played in Atlanta on Saturday night and a win for the Bucks would take them through into the Championship Game.
A win for the Hawks though, and we would be taken to a decisive seventh game which would be held in Milwaukee.
It is not yet known whether Antetokounmpo or Young will be fit for their respective teams for Saturday’s matchup.
Awaiting the winner in the NBA Championship Finals are the Phoenix Suns who defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 4-2 to earn a shot at winning their first ever NBA Championship and their first appearance in the Championship game since 1993.
They have appeared twice in the Championship game, losing to the Boston Celtics 4-2 in 1976 and then in 1993 to the Chicago Bulls also by a 4-2 scoreline.
Whoever they eventually face, it promises to be an exciting series to decide the world champions.