Update, Game 6 — Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out for Game 6 vs. the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the Bucks up 3-2 in the series, we won’t see Giannis back in the lineup on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. ET. Milwaukee can afford to lose Game 6 (though it’s obviously not ideal) and then head back home for a Game 7 if it means Antetokounmpo may be in decent enough shape to play. The way the Bucks looked in Game 5 suggests we could see the team close things out and advance to face the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.
There were reports on Friday that Giannis could get the green light in time for a would-be Game 7 on Monday night. If that is the case, the Bucks have to feel good about their chances of advancing to face the Suns.
Update, Game 5 — Antetokounmpo is being listed as out for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Hawks on Thursday night due to a hyperextended knee. Giannis suffered the injury in the third quarter of Game 4 and was deemed doubtful to play in this game. Now that we have official word on Antetokounmpo being sidelined, we can see how to approach things from the Bucks side tonight.
Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are the two names that pop up immediately. Those two will have to carry the bulk of the offense and leadership. The key may be in the front court backups. We’ll see how the Bucks approach who replaces in the starting lineup. It could be either Bobby Portis or Pat Connaughton. Portis would mean Milwaukee goes a bit bigger with Middleton at the 2. Connaughton means small ball with Middleton at the 3 and PJ Tucker at the 4.
Update, June 30th — Giannis avoided structural damage to his left knee and his ligaments are sound following an MRI on Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported. This is good news for Antetokounmpo, though Woj does say there’s no timetable for the Greek Freak’s return to the lineup. This sounds a lot like he could end up missing Game 5 on Thursday night.
So with Giannis’ status still unclear, we have to lean in favor of the Hawks heading into Thursday night’s game, especially after how they played in the first half before Antetokounmpo was hurt. ATL is getting 2.5 points on DKSB as of Wednesday evening. That line should move once Giannis is confirmed out for Game 5.
Update: Antetokounmpo is expected to undergo further imaging of his left knee on Wednesday, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews.
Milwaukee Bucks PF Giannis Antetokounmpo was forced to leave Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night after suffering an apparent knee injury in the third quarter. He had to be helped off the court and eventually went to the locker room under his own power. The Hawks held a 51-38 lead heading into halftime of Game 4 down 2-1 in the series. Here’s a look at the injury via Sports Illustrated:
Update: The Bucks went on to lose Game 4 110-88 in ATL. We head back to Milwaukee with the series tied 2-2 and Giannis’ status in question for a crucial Game 5 on Thursday night.
Update: Antetokounmpo will not return to Game 4 vs. the Hawks due to a knee injury, the team announced at the end of the third quarter. The Bucks are calling it a hyper-extended left knee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (left knee hyperextension) will not return tonight.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 30, 2021
Update: Giannis had returned to the bench area for the Bucks but is back in the locker room limping after the Hawks went on a run to go up by 20 points.
This is horrible news for the NBA and the Bucks. The Hawks are still leading in the third quarter, but Giannis had got it going to start the second half, scoring 8 quick points after going for 6 points in the first half. If Giannis is unable to return, this could alter the complexion of this series and the NBA Finals. Atlanta has a clear advantage in this game and are beginning to run away with Antetokounmpo off the floor.
The Bucks are going to have to lean on Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday down the stretch. Their depth will be tested with Brook Lopez being ineffective while Bobby Portis hasn’t been getting many minutes while producing stale offense. Meanwhile, Bogdan Bogdanovic has exploded for the Hawks, who are shooting 50 percent. If the Bucks can’t go on a run, this game might be a wash and we may have a tied conference finals 2-2.
From a betting perspective, the Bucks were 7-point favorites on the road heading into this game with Trae Young (foot) sidelined. Milwaukee was getting over 60 percent of the bets on the spread and moneyline at -275. Things weren’t looking good in the first half and the doors blew wide open in the second. Giannis was the most bet on player heading into Game 4 and three of the top five player prop bets most popular with the public on DraftKings Sportsbook were centered around Antetokounmpo.