In the absence of Trae Young, who missed the game with a bone bruise in his foot, the Atlanta Hawks used a full-team effort to stymy the Milwaukee Bucks and take Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals 110–88.
The win allowed the Hawks to even the series at two games apiece as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 5, but the result was just the second-biggest story on the evening. That’s because the second superstar in as many games fell to injury when Giannis Antetokounmpo left in the third quarter after hyperextending his left knee.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
NBA playoff injuries just keep coming
With Young’s injury in Game 3, it wasn’t immediately clear how serious it was. He finished the game after spending a few minutes in the locker room, and his status was up in the air until just before Game 4 began.
Giannis’s was clearly serious from the moment it happened (warning: this video may be hard to watch for some):
In obvious pain on the floor after he landed awkwardly, Giannis left the court partially under his own power. Then he briefly returned to the Bucks’ bench area before heading back to the locker room a second time, at which point he was ruled out with a knee hyperextension.
It goes without saying he’s a big part of what the Bucks do, and his team’s fortunes ride predominantly on his shoulders. His status for Game 5, like Young’s, is now up in the air, which has been an unfortunately common theme in these playoffs.
We’ve already seen the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and James Harden — among others — miss time in the post-season. Adding Young and Antetokounmpo to the already too large mix this late in the game is a gut punch, plain and simple.
'Next man up' for the win
But let’s not completely undersell what the Hawks did to get this victory.
When Young got ruled out, the big question was about how the Hawks would score in his absence. After all, after he hurt his foot in Game 4, the Bucks made a run to score a come-from-behind win.
The answer, in the end, was “by committee.” The Hawks got things going from the opening tip, quickly opening up a 10–2 run.
Young’s immediate fill-in, Lou Williams, put up an incredibly efficient performance, scoring 21 points on seven-of-nine shooting to go along with eight assists and a steal against just one turnover.
But they also got the best game of his playoffs from Bogdan Bogdanovic, who hit six threes despite just 37 per cent shooting from the floor, and finished with 20 points.
As Young cheered on his teammates from the sidelines, the Hawks had six players reach double figures on the whole, and hit exactly 50 per cent of their shots. They also put up more points than they had in either of the past two games in the series. Not bad for a team missing their offensive focal point.
Bucks suffer from another slow start
The Hawks walked away with this one after Giannis’s injury, but the Bucks were already behind at that point after putting together a rough first half.
Worse than the fact Milwaukee shot 33.3 per cent from the field, 21.7 per cent from three and 55.6 from the line en route to a 13-point deficit at half-time was how much of the damage was inflicted by their three stars.
As Giannis — who shot three air balls combined between the three-point arc and the free-throw line — drew constant double teams, Middleton showed no signs of the offensive explosion he put up down the stretch of Game 3.
All that said, Giannis had eight points in the first five minutes of the third, finished his night shooting seven of 10 from the field and looked to finally be playing with confidence as he found holes in the defence before hyperextending his knee.
But it simply can’t take the Bucks that long to fully engage. The slow starts and lack of early execution have been a problem plaguing the Bucks in these playoffs, but they’ll have to clear them up for Game 5 when hopefully both Giannis and Young are back and healthy, and we can watch these teams at full strength.