In a pivotal Game 5 with both teams knotted at two wins a piece, the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks tipped off without their respective superstar players. For Atlanta, Trae Young was forced to sit with a right ankle bone bruise he suffered in Game 3. For Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo avoided major knee injury after a scary landing during a defensive contest, but his services were not available for this contest either.
The Bucks started out hot, getting stops on the defensive end and turning them into buckets the other way. They would hit their first four shots to take a 10-2 lead and force interim head coach Nate McMillan to burn an early timeout.
The Hawks ceded rebound after rebound, so much so that the Bucks didn’t have an empty trip across the half court line until the four minute mark in the first quarter.
Bucks with 22 points on 10 possessions. They've missed 5 shots & have rebounded them all.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) July 2, 2021
After a 32-12 start to the contest — including a stretch of missing 12 of 13 field goals — the Hawks would have to dig themselves out of a big hole. A mild Hawks run brought deficit down to 14 at the end of the first period, 36-22. In that quarter, the Bucks scored more in the paint (28) than the Hawks did total (22).
The Hawks were able to hang in the game largely behind Danilo Gallinari getting to the free throw line and converting. He hit all seven of his attempted free throws in the second quarter. Atlanta as a team were slowly able to get stops, but couldn’t quite heat up on the offensive end to make it count for much.
After a brutal 0-for-7 start from the field for John Collins, he would hit a couple of buckets to pull the Hawks to within single digits towards the end of the first half. Ditto for Kevin Huerter, who started 0-for-5 but hit a three pointer to pull the Hawks to within eight with under two minutes to play in the second quarter.
While Milwaukee hit two big threes to stretch the lead out, Bogdan Bogdanovic scooped in a layup and picked off the ensuing inbound with under a minute left in the second quarter. A Collins three then brought the margin down to just nine points at the half despite a horrific start for the visitors, 65-56.
The offense wasn’t the main issue in the first half, as the team began to find their rhythm towards the end of the half.
The Hawks ended up scoring at a perfectly reasonable rate of 1.12 points per possession in the first half.— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) July 2, 2021
But the Hawks let the Bucks have two and three shots on some early possessions, and they continued to dominate down low to the tune of 40 points in the paint and 25-of-35 (71.4%) shooting from two overall in the first 24 minutes.
The main highlight in the first half was Bogdan Bogdanovic’s long range bombs, as presented by the Atlanta Hawks account.
He would pick up where he left off in the first half, hitting a three on the first offensive possession to cut the lead to six. But the home team would stretch the lead back to 14 with more makes from inside the arc.
Dummy (me): With Antetokounmpo out, the Hawks don't have to stress rim protection as much as they did in Game 4.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) July 2, 2021
Middle of the 3rd quarter & the Bucks are 20-for-21 in the restricted area... pic.twitter.com/qXPiHaFD6w
Bogdanovic would later be assessed a flagrant-1 foul for closing out on a Khris Middleton three and failing to give him space to land. The Bucks would maintain a double digit lead for the remainder of the third quarter. With a 91-78 score heading into the fourth quarter, the Hawks would need a herculean effort to pull this game out.
A herculean effort they would not get, as Milwaukee started to have their way with the Hawks defense. The home team heated up from long range and began to bury Atlanta to end any late game drama.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, though, with Atlanta unable to secure key stops when needed. Despite some good offensive opportunities, the Hawks never truly threatened shortly after the opening tip off and Milwaukee never had a cold offensive stretch. Atlanta falls 123-112 and down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Two notable performances for Atlanta were that of Bogdan Bogdanovic — who finished with 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting, five rebounds and four assists — and Danilo Gallinari — with 19 points off the bench on 5-of-11 shooting and three rebounds.
Atlanta, however, surrendered 39-of-66 (59.5%) shooting from two-point range and 64 points in the paint which included 23-of-27 (85.2%) within the restricted area. Clearly, even without their star player, Milwaukee was able to get whatever they wanted down low and it doomed Atlanta in a big way. That can’t continue if the Hawks are to pull out this series.
The loss obviously creates a do-or-die situation back in Atlanta for Game 6. All eyes turn to the health of both Trae Young and Giannis Antetokounmpo in this critical matchup at 8:30 pm ET on Saturday.