NBA Playoffs 2021 – With out Giannis, members of the Milwaukee Bucks supporting forged confirmed off one of the best variations of themselves
It was early in Game 5 on Thursday night – 2 minutes and 5 seconds to be precise – and Jrue Holiday, open from 3, caught a wing pass from PJ Tucker.
With the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting at the end of the bench in a cream long-sleeved T-shirt and gray sweatpants, the bucks had roared into the game and the energy seeped through at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Holidays 3 fell, giving the Milwaukee Bucks a 10-2 lead and forcing the Atlanta Hawks to sit out. It was the opposite of Game 4 on Tuesday in Atlanta, where the Hawks without Trae Young led to an early 10-2 lead, forcing the Bucks to sit out. And like the Hawks back then, who rode the tide of an inspired cadre determined to obey the duty of carrying the burden of an absent star, the Bucks never let up.
The build up of the Bucks roster has been going on since the team in Antetokounmpo realized what it’s got. The Bucks have honed role-players and discovered hidden gems to create a complementary group. In a game where this group had to find their own offensive outside of the two-time MVP, the sideline Antetokounmpo added by filling his void to win Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final 123-112 and take a 3-2 lead take .
Start with Brook Lopez, who played perhaps the game of his life with a playoff career high of 33 points in the 14-of-18 shooting and dominated the inside with towering size and brute strength.
“We have to find a way to give ourselves a chance and Brook has really done it all his career,” said coach Mike Budenholzer. “Many thanks to him.”
Lopez was a major beneficiary of this discovery process in 2018 when he signed with the Bucks about their biannual exception, just $ 3.4 million for one season.
Once upon a time, the then-New Jersey Nets number 10 spent his first nine seasons as a prime option himself, with offenses curated around his skills and rosters to suit him. He is the all-time top scorer in Nets history, putting together seasons that are consistently around 20 points per game.
In his first eight seasons with the Nets, he got a total of 31 3-points. In his ninth season, he won 387, then was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of the move that sent D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn. He was on a lottery-linked Lakers team that was largely a dysfunctional mess and needed a fresh start.
When Brook Lopez throws down the alley, his teammates can’t believe what they just saw.
In his first season with the Bucks, he hit nearly 200 3s, making it a space-creating piece of the puzzle they were trying to solve for Antetokounmpo. It resulted in a new $ 52 million contract from Milwaukee in 2019, and now Lopez’s career as a 3-point rim protecting sniper range 5 has seen a renaissance.
“I’m just trying to get out there and help my team as I can. Whether it’s playing this new, modern 3-ball game, floor-stretch game or being inside,” said Lopez. “The great thing about today is that we were all really just basketball players, on the offensive and on the defensive. We played each other out, made moves, made additional passes. It was a lot of fun tonight.”
Then there’s Holiday, the reciprocal upgrade for which the Bucks turned part of their long-term future over to the New Orleans Pelicans. In some ways, he’s already fulfilled his worth as possibly the precursor to convincing Antetokounmpo to sign a five-year deal to stay with the Bucks.
The Bucks were looking for Holiday to be more reliable and to support them offensively in dry spells. He’s been inconsistent, but while the Bucks are pushing forward, his role as a stopper and goalscorer is vital. They gave up three first-round players and two pick swaps to get him, but 25 points and 13 assists in 42 minutes in Game 5 were worth at least a few of them.
“I just knew I had to be aggressive. Whatever that means, whether Giannis was out or not, I knew I had to be aggressive,” said Holiday. “I think the best way I can help my team is by getting into the paint, penetrating, and handing out for 3s and wide open glares … courts to Brook for such monster dunks.”
Stephen A. Smith discusses the keys to the Hawks who are at stake with their season.
The Bucks signed Bobby Portis in the last offseason and expanded their options on 4 with another spacer and scorer. Portis has become a fan favorite, perhaps in part because of its very changeable name or the hyperactive energy and intensity with which it plays. He switched to a role as part-time Small-Ball 5, which gave Budenholzer the opportunity to adapt defensive schemes atypically and to add new looks for Young and the Hawks. Portis has always been a capable scorer, the 22 points in 36 minutes on Thursday are an example of how easy it can be for him at times.
“Coming here was the best decision of my career,” said Portis. “I have good veterans like Giannis and Brook who train me to be a two-way defensive player and guys like Khris [Middleton] and Jrue, to put the ball in the hole and still trust me to fire my shot, and to have a coach like Coach Bud and the entire coaching staff … it was just a great business decision. “
The 2021 NBA playoffs will spawn a new champion, with the Lakers out. None of the three remaining teams have won a title since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976.
• Young: Bucks pieces come together
• Windhorst: Sun’s unique story of redemption
• Arnovitz: Middleton is Bucks’ extra dimension
• Pelton: Bucks can reach the final without a Giannis
• MacMullan: The connection the Hawks established
And of course Middleton, who showed his final lines in Game 3 and played with a stable scoring hand in Game 5 with 26 points in 45 minutes. Without Antetokounmpo, he was the obvious option to step up and expand his plate. But Middleton is a focused rhythm player who waits for his hand to get hot and the game to open up for him. His story as a player is well written, a second-round selection from Texas A&M unexpectedly becomes Antetokounmpo’s star buddy – and the Bucks shutdown is approaching.
Every time a star player fails, every coach and player likes to say that it’s not one person who needs to improve, but a collective chip-in to make up for their absence. When relying on a roster, the team is crucial.
“A lot of people expect me to do that,” said Middleton of the takeover without Giannis. “For me it just plays in the game, I’m just trying to involve myself and others. Knowing that the focus will be a lot more on me and Jrue. Jrue did a great job of setting the tone first myself, other guys, Brook and Bobby. “
As with the Hawks in Game 4, the story of this series and the postseason is a war of squad wear. While the Bucks, with or without Antetokounmpo, removed a win from the finals, they have shown that maybe all the pieces fit.