Bucks take 3-2 lead, never trail in Game 5 win

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Thursday night’s Game 5 between the Bucks and the Hawks in Milwaukee once again didn’t feature either Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) or Trae Young (foot) and the Bucks got monster performances as four of their five starters scored at least 22 points. Meanwhile, the Hawks (at times) suffered from miserable shooting and mostly porous defense, and will now have to win Game 6 in Atlanta on Saturday night, as well as Game 7 back in Milwaukee on Monday if they’re going to win a date with the Suns in the Finals.

Brook Lopez decided to play like a 7’1” center and bang inside and the move paid off to the tune of a playoff career-high 33 points with seven rebounds, two steals, four blocks and zero 3-pointers on ridiculous 14-of-18 shooting in the relatively easy 123-112 win. Khris Middleton went off for 26 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers on 10-of-20 shooting, Jrue Holiday chipped in with 25 points, six boards, 13 assists, a steal and three 3-pointers, and new starter (for Giannis) Bobby Portis got the crowd fired up and racked up a playoff career-high 22 points, eight boards, three assists, three steals and a 3-pointer in the win. Not bad for a guy we didn’t even catch a glimpse of in Milwaukee’s series against the Nets. And really, that’s the story of this game. Those four Bucks couldn’t seem to miss anything, nor could the Hawks stop them, while the officiating left a little to be desired in my eyes at times. The only person I'm aware of who thought Bogdan Bogdanovic's flagrant foul should have been ruled that way was Reggie Miller. The winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series 82 percent of the time so the Hawks’ backs are clearly up against a wall.

However, my guess is that, historically, the two best players in the series weren’t both injured and missing games and it still sounds like Trae is closer to playing than Giannis. In other words, nothing would surprise me, including the Bucks winning on Saturday to end it, the Hawks winning Games 6 & 7, or the Bucks taking it in Game 7. And yes, it’s also entirely possible that both Trae and Giannis could play on Saturday night.

As for the Hawks, Bogi Bogdanovic was solid and hit 10-of-22 shots and seven triples for 28 points, five boards and four assists but no one else ever fully got it going. Kevin Huerter was the only one to put up poor numbers, hitting just 3-of-12 shots and two 3-pointers for eight points, although Clint Capela was pretty invisible for most of this one. He was iffy with eye inflammation but was able to go and had six points, eight boards and three blocks, but played just 21 minutes and simply couldn’t contain Bro-Lo or Portis. They also abused John Collins’ defense, while Collins hit 7-of-16 shots and three 3-pointers for 19 points, eight boards and three assists. Lou Williams started for Trae and hit 8-of-15 shots and a 3-pointer for 17 points, five dimes and a steal, but also had six turnovers after not committing a single one in Game 4. Danilo Gallinari hit 5-of-11 shots, two 3-pointers and 7-of-7 free throws for 19 points and three boards, and Cam Reddish added seven points, four boards, two dimes, two steals and a block in 23 minutes. The Hawks missed 12-of-13 shots at one stretch in the second quarter, but the overall numbers don’t look terrible. They were just outplayed by the Bucks all night. They cut a 20-point Bucks lead to six at one point, but every time they made a dent Milwaukee turned around with a run of their own and the Hawks never really got all the way back into the game after coming out flat early.

So now we wait and see if Trae and/or Giannis can play on Saturday night in Atlanta. Trae will be a game-time call and Giannis might be one too. If one of them plays and the other sits, the team with the guy playing immediately gains a huge advantage. And if both sit, or both play, the Hawks get the edge simply because of having home court. Either way, I still get the feeling this thing is going to a Game 7 in Milwaukee where anything is possible. The Hawks never trailed in Game 4 and the Bucks never trailed in this one. So Game 6 will be must-see TV if you’re an NBA fan. It should be a war but the Hawks will need to find their way to better interior defense as the Bucks’ big men gained a ton of momentum and confidence in Thursday’s easy win and dominating performance.