The Milwaukee Bucks are one win away from going to the NBA Finals. It sure looked like they were going to have a more difficult time in Game 5 without star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, but as we’ve seen in other games, including Game 4 of this series, teams do step up and rally when a superstar goes down.
Call it the Superstar Subtraction Theory, call it human nature, call it whatever you want, but Milwaukee got contributions from just about everybody to take a 3-2 series lead.
Game 6 is on Saturday night, a game that the Phoenix Suns will be watching with bated breath to see if their opponent for the NBA Finals gets locked in. Online sports betting sites have the Hawks as a 2.5-point home favorite with a total of 216.5 to keep the season and the dream alive.
If the Milwaukee Bucks win Game 6 or Game 7, Game 5 will go down in franchise lore as “The Brook Lopez Game”. Scoring was going to have to come from some kind of unlikely source on Thursday night, as the Bucks took the floor without Giannis Antetokounmpo after he suffered a gnarly-looking knee injury in Game 5.
There was no ligament damage and hopefully no long-term impact, but Giannis certainly looks to be out for the rest of this series and probably more. If the Bucks win, of course. In Giannis’s absence, it was Brook Lopez who scored 33 points on a phenomenal 14-of-18 shooting performance to pace four Bucks with at least 22 points. The Bucks led by 12 at the end of the first quarter and never looked back in the 123-112 win.
Arguably the best development for the Bucks was that Khris Middleton had an efficient offensive evening. Middleton was 10-of-20 from the floor and did not force as many threes as we’ve seen him take in this series. Lopez will get the headlines, but Middleton became the team’s most important player with Giannis out and a quality effort from him was essential for his confidence and also the team’s. The Bucks got exactly that.
Milwaukee still shot poorly from distance and that has been a problem area all postseason long, going just 9-of-29 from beyond the arc to actually IMPROVE to 30.6%. That’s right, the Bucks are shooting so bad in these playoffs that a 31% outing bumped up their 3P%.
On the positive side, Milwaukee only turned the ball over eight times and secured some extra possessions with 14 offensive rebounds. That was huge to get some second-chance points and also keep the ball away from the Hawks.
The Hawks missed Trae Young in Game 4, but were still able to get the job done without him. That was not the case in Game 5. Atlanta got 28 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic, but the scoring wasn’t nearly spread out in the same manner as Game 4. John Collins and Danilo Gallinari each had 19 points,but the Hawks didn’t defend as well and had a few too many turnovers in the loss.
For most of the series, 112 points would have been enough to win. It was not on Thursday night. Because of that, the Hawks are now on the brink of elimination. If Young can go in Game 6, there is really no way that he doesn’t and maybe Atlanta was saving him for this very moment.
Frankly, Atlanta did play well enough to win on offense. The Hawks shot 39.5% from three and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds. It was the lack of intensity and effort on the defensive end that ultimately wound up the deciding factor. Young won’t help as much on that end, so his impact may not be all that big in Game 6, if he can play at anything resembling 100%.
Let’s see if Atlanta can rally on the defensive end. Most of the good performances against the Bucks this postseason have come as a result of Milwaukee simply not shooting the ball well. The Bucks were a lot better in that department on Thursday and a similar performance will send them to the next round.
Bucks vs. Hawks Free Pick
The Bucks and Hawks both face big questions going into Game 6. While you’d like to see Trae Young return, it could actually be a detriment for Atlanta if he does, as he’ll have a high usage rate and be out there with the ball in his hands a lot as a player well below 100%. I think if you’re rooting for the Bucks, as crazy as it sounds, you almost hope Young is out there and is a hindrance to his team.
In light of that, the Bucks on the money line are the pick for Game 6.
Pick: Milwaukee Bucks