Are the Milwaukee Bucks going to get lucky on the injury front yet again? In the last round, the Bucks benefited from injuries to both Kyrie Irving and James Harden to take care of the Brooklyn Nets in seven games. Just three games into the series against the Atlanta Hawks, star guard Trae Young is hobbled by a bruised foot as a result of stepping on one of the officials.
The Bucks are now seven-point road favorites in Game 4 with a chance to take a 3-1 lead in the series. The line has gone up from -6 to -7 with concerns about Young and his ankle and the total is 219. Milwaukee was -4.5 in Game 3, so an adjustment has clearly been made in light of the recent developments.
There are a couple of different ways to look at what has transpired with the Milwaukee Bucks over the last four days. The first is to do what I did in the intro and marvel at how lucky they’ve gotten with key injuries to important players for the opposition. The Bucks aren’t going to apologize for that by any means. It is part of the game and they’ve fallen on the right side of luck.
The second is to marvel at that fact that the Bucks have actually turned it up offensively in the last two games. Milwaukee was terrible on offense against Brooklyn. Simply terrible. The Bucks had an eFG% of just .498 and shot 44.1% from the floor and just barely over 30% from three.
All of the sudden, the Bucks are up to almost 50% from the floor in this series. They are still shooting 32% from three and less than 65% from the free throw line, so it isn’t like they’ve cured every ill, but Milwaukee has been a lot more efficient in the high-percentage scoring areas over the last two games. So much so that the Bucks shot over 51% in Game 3. Of course, they also shot 57.1% from the free throw line, but managed to go 38% from three.
If the Bucks are going to remember how to score, then we’re going to see a much different team. After all, this is the #1 scoring offense from the regular season. Much like Game 2, it was all about Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Middleton had 38 points and made 6-of-12 threes. Giannis had 33 points, though he did miss seven of 13 free throw attempts again.
The Bucks are starting to take and get better shots. They also pulled down 15 offensive rebounds in Game 3 and really dominated on the glass. Maybe they’ve figured some things out, but the game also came down to the fourth quarter, where Milwaukee was 12-of-18 from the floor and Atlanta was 7-of-18. That was the difference in the 11-point win.
Trae Young was hurt in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter and went to the locker room for a bit before gutting it out for nearly eight minutes in the fourth quarter. It was clear that Young was nowhere near 100% and the Hawks suffered as a whole in that period. As mentioned, they were 7-of-18 from the floor and only scored 17 points in the third quarter. Atlanta took a two-point lead into the commercial break after three quarters.
Young’s health really is the key to this game. The Bucks were better offensively, but a perfect storm of circumstances in the fourth quarter really decided that game. Milwaukee got hot from the floor and Atlanta struggled with Young hobbled. Khris Middleton had 20 points for Milwaukee in the fourth quarter. Giannis only had five. The Bucks simply fed the hot hand.
The Hawks couldn’t do that. There were no hot hands to feed and Young was mostly unable to create his own shot. This is the problem with a team like Atlanta. John Collins had a huge Game 1. Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari have had their moments. But, the Hawks don’t have that reliable second scorer. With Young limping around, that factor gets magnified even more.
Betting Game 4 from a side standpoint is very hard to do. The Hawks were as good or better than the Bucks for three quarters of Game 3 and were well on their way to having a good chance at covering the 4.5-point line. Young’s injury definitely necessitates an adjustment and he is questionable for Game 4. Even if he goes, how effective will he be?
Bucks vs. Hawks Free Pick
In theory, we have to go on the assumption that Young plays and doesn’t play well, right? Does that mean laying the seven points with Milwaukee? I’m not sure I want to lay seven points with an inefficient Milwaukee offense and a Hawks team fighting like a caged rat.
The best play I can think of is the under. Game 3 was played to a pretty slow pace once again. If Young does play, the Hawks won’t want to run him up and down the floor and make the game a track meet. That should lend itself well to an under, as well as a regression to the playoff normal for the Bucks.
Pick: Under 219