The NBA postseason landscape shifted once again in the third quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern conference finals.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo contested an alley-oop attempt against the Atlanta Hawks and landed awkwardly on his leg, resulting in a hyperextended knee. The forward missed the remainder of Game 4, resulting in a 110-88 Atlanta victory. He was also ruled out for Game 5 and remains sidelined indefinitely.
The Bucks are still favored to come out of the East and are second-favorite to win the Finals at +330, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. They are -3 in Game 5 Thursday night despite the Greek Freak sitting out.
Antetokounmpo was arguably the biggest star left in the postseason, averaging 29.2 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists prior to Game 4. He led the Bucks past the Brooklyn Nets in a road Game 7 to reach the conference finals for the second time in his career. The Nets were heavy favorites to win the NBA title, but dealt with major injuries against the Bucks. Milwaukee was a bonafide contender as well, but definitely got some favorable bounces in this series. The Bucks were heavily favored to defeat the feisty but inexperienced Hawks in the conference finals.
The series is currently tied 2-2 but the Hawks are likely to get Trae Young back before the Bucks have Antetokounmpo. Atlanta was able to defeat Milwaukee by 22 points without Young, a good sign for the team going forward if the guard does return.
This looked to be the season Antetokounmpo silenced his critics and rewarded the only franchise he’s known with a title. After signing a long-term extension with the team, he pushed for the Bucks to add talent. Milwaukee did so my making a big trade for Jrue Holiday. Superstars from other contending teams were either making early exits or going down with injuries. The Bucks dispatched the Miami Heat in four games to avenge last year’s bubble defeat and took out the heavily favored Nets in the next round. Milwaukee was set up extremely well to win the title, but Antetokounmpo’s injury puts that in doubt.
Looking ahead, the Bucks are +800 to win next season’s title according to DraftKings Sportsbook. That puts them tied for the third-best odds with the Los Angeles Clippers, This optimism is largely due to Milwaukee’s current playoff run. At 26, Antetokounmpo still has a lot of great years ahead. The Bucks will keep most of their core intact for the next few seasons. The franchise is in an excellent position to contend for years.
The Bucks can still reach the Finals this year. If Antetokounmpo is healthy enough to play, he could return by that point. After all, he’s third in Finals MVP odds at +500. The next two or three games could determine whether Antetokounmpo’s legacy makes a jump this season or if he has to wait for yet another year.