The Milwaukee Bucks had outstanding luck on the injury front in the playoffs going into Game 4. They were able to take advantage of some key injuries in the series against the Brooklyn Nets and then seemed to be dealt another positive hand when Trae Young came up lame in Game 4 with what we found out to be a bone bruise.
In Game 5, Lady Luck, the Gambling Gods, and the Swarm of Injury Bugs all exacted their revenge. Giannis Antetokounmpo needed to be helped off with a knee injury and is listed as doubtful for Thursday night’s pivotal fifth game.
The series is tied at 2-2 and Milwaukee is a two-point favorite to take a 3-2 lead, but the Giannis injury looms large to be sure. The total sits at 215.5 at Bookmaker Sportsbook.
The Atlanta Hawks deserve a ton of credit. They could have rolled over with Trae Young hurt, trailing in the series 2-1 without their leader and chief distributor. They did not. Even before Giannis Antetokounmpo left hurt, the Hawks had opened up a 13-point lead at halftime. They really locked down defensively and shot 46% to just 34% for the Bucks.
It was going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach from Atlanta and that is precisely what happened. Everybody chipped in offensively and everybody gave some extra energy on the defensive side as well. As a result, the Hawks mounted a big lead and then stepped on the gas even harder in the second half, especially after Giannis left the game.
Things could have gotten dicey in the second half, as Milwaukee made some adjustments and shot 47%. The Hawks went ahead and poured it on offensively by shooting 62% from the field. It was the right type of performance to gain some confidence with or without Young in Game 5.
Veteran Lou Williams led the Hawks with 21 points and paced four players in double figures. Everybody did just a little bit more and now the series is tied. If Young can return for Game 5 after a few days off from the bone bruise, we could be looking at an Atlanta team knocking on the door of the NBA Finals at home in Game 6.
It is really hard to quantify what Giannis Antetokounmpo means to the Bucks. At this point, the line has been adjusted about 5.5 points, which is probably somewhere in the middle in terms of playing at less than 100% or not playing at all. If he is officially ruled out, it makes sense that the line would go down even further. If he plays, to what capacity is he able to be effective?
Replacing 28.2 points per game and nearly 13 rebounds per contest is virtually impossible at this time of the year. The Bucks can draw solace from the fact that Atlanta did it in Game 4 with Young out, but Young had not been all that efficient of a scorer in the playoffs. Giannis was shooting over 55% from the floor for a Bucks team that has had major challenges putting the ball in the cylinder.
Khris Middleton had 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting. He has really had issues in these playoffs, shooting just 43% overall and just 33% on threes. If he is the go-to scorer now for the Bucks, they had better hope he finds his range in a hurry, especially because he’ll be taking a ton of contested shots.
Jrue Holiday will also need to step up. We could see the pace of this series increase in a bigway, as the Bucks may need to go small and maybe push the tempo a little bit more. Holiday and Middleton took 17 of the 43 shots in the second half.
Hawks vs. Bucks Free Pick
Man, how hard of a handicap is this game? The Hawks could be missing Trae Young and the Bucks could be missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. It seems far more likely that Giannis does miss the game, but both seem to be game-time decisions. Going over 215.5 isn’t a bad idea, though. The Bucks will need to increase the tempo and will likely end up taking a lot more threes. The Hawks may fall into the quickened pace, with or without Young.
Pick: Over 215.5