The Hawks-Bucks series could continue on without two of the East’s biggest stars.
Giannis Antetokounmpo went down in Game 4 with a hyperextended left knee, two days after Trae Young suffered a bone bruise on his right foot that sidelined him for Tuesday night’s matchup in Atlanta.
Even without Young’s offensive presence, the Hawks rallied to even the conference finals series 2-2, in a 110-88 Game 4 win.
It was a nightmare evening for the Bucks, who wilted without their best player as the Hawks thrived without theirs on the other end of the court.
A diagnosis is pending on the two-time MVP’s left knee, and the Bucks said he’ll undergo further imaging on Wednesday.
Antetokounmpo, before the knee injury, was already dealing with left calf with tightness, which listed him as probable on the Bucks injury report for Games 3 and 4. He had a timid first half, scoring just six points to go with two air-balls from the free-throw line. He finished the night with 14 points.
Young’s status is still up in the air for Game 5 on Thursday in Milwaukee.
Antetokounmpo suffered the scary injury while defending Hawks center Clint Capela with 7:14 remaining in the third quarter. He landed awkwardly on his left knee, which appeared to buckle, and immediately fell to the floor, clutching his knee in pain.
That’s when Atlanta rallied and went on 25-8 run to command a 87-62 lead over Milwaukee, which shot 5-for-23 from beyond the arc. The Bucks also committed nine turnovers.
The latter half of the game would rely heavily on a coaching battle between Atlanta’s Nate McMillan and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer — and McMillan ultimately won the contest.
The former Pacers coach, along with a combined 41 points by Lou Williams (21) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (20), were the recipe for Atlanta’s Game 4 victory. Williams, who’s been a force off the bench of Atlanta, started in place of Young.
McMillan made adjustments in Young’s absence, while preaching the Hawks’ season mantra, “believe,” throughout the game — and the depth of Atlanta’s bench shined.
Capela added 15 points while anchoring the defense, and Kevin Huerter added 15 points.
Cam Reddish also impressed with 12 points and showed flashes of improved confidence after missing the final 42 games of the regular season with an Achilles injury.
Meanwhile, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday’s efforts weren’t enough to save the Bucks in Antetokounmpo’s absence. Middleton was held to 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting, and he missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.
All of a sudden, Milwaukee’s championship hopes hang in the balance.
After the Bucks’ Game 4 loss, Middleton expressed confidence in Milwaukee’s future, even if it means playing without Antetokounmpo.
“If he’s able to play, great. If not, we just got to be ready,” Middleton told reporters after Game 4. “One game at time. That’s it.”
If Antetokounmpo is out for Game 5, the Bucks will need Middleton to be firing on all cylinders — like he did in Game 3 with a 38-point performance, along with 11 rebounds and seven assists. They’ll also need a heavy offensive presence from Holiday and Bobby Portis, as well as a tough defensive plan including big men Tucker and Brook Lopez.
Perhaps most importantly, Budenholzer will need to adjust his offensive game plan to work around the absence of his best player – something he failed to do after Giannis went down.