As painful as it may be, the Milwaukee Bucks are enduring the same situation they did inside the Orlando bubble last year: an injury to Giannis Antetokounmpo at the worst possible time.
During last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bucks lost to the Miami Heat in five games, with Antetokounmpo sitting out Game Five with an injury. It seems that history is repeating itself this season as the two-time MVP suffered a hyperextended left knee in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks. The series is now at 2-2, with Game Five happening in Milwaukee.
The big question that everyone is asking right now: Can the Bucks survive without Giannis Antetokounmpo?
Making the Right In-Game Adjustments
The Hawks dominated Game Four with Trae Young sitting on the bench with an injury. In contrast, the Bucks have no answer for the Hawks’ balanced attack led by Lou Williams’ 21 points. Nobody on the Bucks breached the 20-point barrier in Game Five.
Jrue Holiday only had 19 points in 38 minutes. Khris Middleton had 16 points in 36 minutes. What caught the attention of fans and pundits alike was that Coach Mike Budenholzer fielded Pat Connaughton. In 26 minutes of action, Connaughton had three points and finished with a -21 +/-. Bobby Portis played for 21 minutes and only produced seven points. Many called this move from Budenholzer a weakness in making the correct in-game adjustments.
In the series opener, Budenholzer fielded Connaughton for 29 minutes that only yielded four points.
While Middleton and Holiday are expected to play heavy minutes as they did in the series against the Brooklyn Nets, the Bucks’ survivability will depend on the adjustments Budenholzer will make.
Another adjustment that the Bucks need to make for Game Five involves Khris Middleton, who only had 16 points in Game Four. He missed all seven of his attempts from the three-point line and had four turnovers. With Giannis Antetokounmpo’s status for Game Five still up in the air, it’s up to Middleton to pick up the slack for the Bucks. If Middleton can get over his struggles, the Bucks might head into Game Six with a 3-2 series lead.
The Big Question
Here’s a question: Will you risk playing an injured Giannis Antetokounmpo over an equally injured team such as the Hawks?
If he’s healthy enough to carry the Bucks in Game Five, that’s a big problem for the Hawks, especially if Trae Young remains unavailable. Then again, the Hawks won Game One despite Antetokounmpo finishing with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists.
The Bucks will always need Antetokounmpo to succeed. If he’s injured, the Bucks will need to find someone else to fill the void. The only question for Mike Boudenholzer and company is this: Will Middleton and Holiday be enough for the team to carry the load without their MVP?