The Milwaukee Bucks had a prime opportunity to take control of their series against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night as Trae Young was sidelined with a bone bruise in his foot. While most fans and pundits thought Milwaukee would roll Atlanta for a relatively easy win, the exact opposite is what took place at State Farm Arena as the Bucks fell behind early and then stood no chance once Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled out after hyperextending his knee as the Hawks cruised to a 110-88 victory.
Lou Williams was inserted into the starting lineup following Young’s injury and he responded in a major way finishing with a game-high 21 points to lead six Hawks players scoring in double figures. On the other side of the spectrum, Jrue Holiday led all scorers for Milwaukee with 19 points.
With the win, the Hawks have tied the series as things shift back to Milwaukee for Game 5. Given the fact that Atlanta entered the game without the services of Young, and leave it uncertain of Antetokounmpo’s status going forward, the Hawks have to feel good about their position after four games in the Eastern Conference finals.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Giannis goes down
The Hawks were already without Trae Young, and by the end of Game 4 neither team had their star on the court. Early in the third quarter, Giannis Antetokounmpo went up to try and deflect a lob that was thrown to Clint Capela. Upon landing, Giannis hyperextended his left knee, which was then pushed further back by by the force of Capela’s landing.
Grimacing in obvious pain, Giannis crumped to the ground on the baseline. He stayed down for some time under the attention of the Bucks’ medical staff, and slowly made his way to his feet with the support of trainers and his brother, Thanasis. Eventually, Giannis was able to hobble off the court and into the tunnel. There was a brief glimmer of hope when he returned to the bench a few minutes later, but he soon made his way back to the locker room and did not return.
The team officially announced he was out with a hyperextended knee, but no further details are available at this point. Giannis will get an MRI at some point in the near future, after which we’ll know the full extent of the injury. Whether he’s able to return for the playoffs or not, hopefully he didn’t do any major damage to the knee that could affect his career moving forward.
2. Lou Will steps up
Giannis’ injury is going to be the main story from this game, and for good reason. However, it’s not the only reason the Hawks won. Lou Williams, who started in place of Trae Young after the budding star suffered a freak foot injury late in Game 3, put together a vintage performance to lead the way for Atlanta.
The three-time Sixth Man of the Year had only started one game for the Hawks since arriving in a mid-season trade, and had never started a postseason game. You wouldn’t have known that by watching him on Tuesday night, however. Williams was arguably the best player on the floor, and if not he was certainly the most confident.
Knocking down his first six shots, Williams finished with 21 points, five rebounds and eight assists while shooting 7-for-9 from the field. He wasn’t quite Trae Young in Game 1, but Williams either scored or assisted on 15 of the Hawks’ 43 made baskets, which isn’t too shabby.
3. Do Bucks have a response if Giannis is out?
Amid all the concerns about Giannis’ knee, it will probably be forgotten that the Bucks were trailing when it happened. You don’t want to do too much psychoanalyzing, but from the outside, at least, it seemed like they sort of let their guard down once they heard that Trae Young wouldn’t be playing.
Poor shooting didn’t help, but they were lackadaisical and out of sorts for the entire first half, and dug themselves a double-digit deficit. Sure, the Bucks still could have won, and their bad start is going to get wiped out by Giannis’ injury, but the truth is that the Hawks looked more ready for this game despite the absence of their best player.
Now, the series is all tied up at 2-2 as we head back to Milwaukee for Game 5, and we don’t know the status of either Giannis or Young. If Giannis is indeed out — which in all honestly seems likely given the severity of his hyperextension — it will be interesting to see what sort of response the Bucks have. As great as Young is, the Hawks are a deep team and in Williams have a similar player who can step in and replicate his role to some extent.
No one in the world can replace Giannis. Will Milwaukee be able to muster the same sort of emotional effort the Hawks’ had in Game 4? If so, they could still win this series, especially if Young remains sidelined. That’s a lot easier said than done, however.