With the Bucks ahead in the series, 2-1 going into Tuesday night, they were looking at shutting the door on the Hawks and taking a 3-1 series lead as the Hawks were without their superstar point guard, Trae Young.
But what was supposed to be a game three that saw the Bucks take firm control of the series, ended up being a game that gave all Bucks fans a heart attack, and saw the series evened up at two games a piece. In the third quarter, there was a scrum for a rebound underneath the basket and Giannis Antetokounmpo came down awkwardly on his left knee and hyper-extended it. What followed was the longest morning ever as a Bucks fan. We all waited, not so patientally, for the results of the MRI to come back. When they did, the results provided the most comforting three words possible at the moment. No structural damage. That is relieving news for the Bucks and their future, but he will miss the important game five, but Trae Young will also be missing that game.
In game three, Milwaukee was able to get an all-star performance out of their two-time all-star, Khris Middleton. He had 38 points in the contest, but more importantly, he had 20 points alone in the fourth quarter, which was more than the Hawks scored as a team during that period (17). He was scoring in all different ways. He was drilling three pointers, getting to his patented mid-range spots and getting to the basket and finishing with his preferred left hand at the rim. Jrue Holiday was almost a non-factor in games three and four, and if the Bucks want to take re-take control of the series, they will need strong performances from Giannis’s two sidekicks.
The Hawks were in firm control of game four, even when Giannis went down with his injury, and were able to pull away at the end of the game. This was an excellently coached game from Nate McMillan, who made the right move by starting Lou Williams, who had a 20-point game, and then getting production off the bench from an unlikely source in Cam Reddish, who hadn’t seen significant minutes since February.
Credit Reddish for staying ready for his time to shine, as it would have been easy to mentally check out after two and a half rounds of sitting on the bench with no playing time other than end of games in blowouts. Reddish is a lengthy wing who can finish at awkward angles inside, but most importantly, is quick enough to stay in front of Khris Middleton, and long enough to contest his shot that has a very high release point. He brought incredible energy off the bench, and the Hawks will need more of that as they go into Milwaukee to try to take control of the series in a hostile enviornment.
Bogdan Bogdonovich was essentially a Buck in the offseason, as the Kings and Bucks agreed to a trade that sent Donte Divencienzo and other assets to the Kings in exchange for the sharp-shooting guard from Serbia. Instead the trade was vetoed due to NBA’s tampering rules, and Bogdan ended up on the Hawks roster. He has been playing injured this series, but started to find his groove in game four, tallying 20 points on 6/14 shooting on three-pointers.
In Young’s absence, the Hawks will continue to look for unlikely contributors to punch their ticket to the finals, and that can be difficult to relying on in big games in hostile environments. The Bucks path is much simpler. They just need to ride Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, both borderline all-stars, into the NBA finals, and hope that Giannis is healthy enough to return for the series that would be against the Suns.