Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez lead Milwaukee to pivotal Game 5 win

The Milwaukee Bucks are one game away from the NBA Finals. On Thursday, they hosted the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals with both sides missing key contributors. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, DeAndre Hunter and Donte DiVincenzo all remain out, but the Bucks did a better job of replacing their superstar’s production. After jumping ahead by as many as 20 points in the first half, the Bucks pulled out the victory, 123-112, to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

Four players stood out. Brook Lopez led the way with a playoff career-high 33 points, but three of his teammates were hot on his trail. Khris Middleton scored 26 points of his own to go along with 25 from Jrue Holiday and 22 from Bobby Portis. Combined, they scored all but 17 of Milwaukee’s points for the game. It was a valiant effort from a hobbled Bogdan Bogdanovic to score 28 for the Hawks, but his teammates couldn’t give him enough support to steal this one.

The Bucks and Hawks will now travel to Atlanta for Game 6 on Saturday. If the Hawks win, Game 7 in Milwaukee will be on Monday. If the Bucks win? They’ll meet the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. For now, here are the three biggest takeaways from Game 5.

1. Brook’s time machine

Before Brook Lopez was a stretch big man, he was a traditional low-post threat. He averaged over 20 points per game four times as a member of the Nets, and he got there primarily by punishing opposing bigs near the basket. As the NBA has grown smaller, his combination of size and skill has only grown deadlier inside. He just hasn’t played for a team that has allowed him to use those skills. As good as Lopez is near the basket, Giannis Antetokounmpo is simply better. So he spaces the floor for his MVP teammate and uses the bulk of his energy on defense.

Antetokounmpo’s absence changed the entire geometry of the floor for the Bucks. …

Giannis Antetokounmpo injured in Milwaukee’s Game 4 loss to Atlanta

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 …

Khris Middleton helps Milwaukee seize 2-1 lead; all eyes on Trae Young’s ankle

The Milwaukee Bucks may have lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Atlanta Hawks, but with back-to-back victories, they have officially retaken home-court advantage in the series. The Bucks won Game 3 113-102 in order to take a 2-1 series lead over the Hawks. They are now only two wins away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1974.

The Hawks led for most of the contest, but the Bucks rallied behind an incredible 20-point fourth quarter from Khris Middleton to take the victory. He ended up with 38 total points, a playoff career-high, and that was enough for the Bucks despite 35 points from Trae Young in another stellar outing.

The Bucks will try to take a commanding 3-1 lead on Tuesday, when the Hawks host them yet again in Game 4. For now, here are the biggest takeaways from Game 4.

A memorable night for Middleton

Khris Middleton had shot 33.9 percent from the floor in his last three games. His 6-of-23 shooting night in Game 1 went a long way in costing the Bucks a 3-0 lead in this series, and that has been the story of his postseason. He struggles for a few nights before going nuclear when Milwaukee needs it most. He scored 30 total points in their first two losses to Brooklyn … and then scored 35 in a critical Game 3 win. He topped that with 38 in Milwaukee’s Game 6 win over the Nets, but Sunday night was his best outing of the postseason yet.

The Bucks scored 30 points in the fourth quarter, but Middleton had 20 of them. He made more 3-pointers (six) than the rest of his teammates combined (five). He tied for the team lead with 11 rebounds and trailed only Jrue Holiday with seven assists.

Speaking of Holiday, Milwaukee’s third star shot 2 of 11 from the field. In Game 2, he scored 22 as Middleton struggled. That has been one of the stranger trends of this postseason. The Bucks can’t get …

Trae Young leads Atlanta Hawks to victory over Milwaukee Bucks

Trae Young scored 48 points as the Atlanta Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-113 in the opening game of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals.

For a minute, Travis Schlenk’s 2018 draft-night decision to trade Luka Doncic for Trae Young, and the future lottery pick that became Cam Reddish, had the makings of an all-time blunder. That wasn’t a knock on Young, who was an All-Star in his second season and made it obvious early in his rookie season that he was going to be a really good player. It’s just that Doncic was almost immediately one of the best players in the world.

Almost exactly three calendar years later, Doncic still hasn’t gotten the Mavericks out of the first round while Young has the Hawks up 1-0 on the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. That, in turn, isn’t a knock on Doncic, who still has a legit claim as one of the five best players in the world and simply isn’t working with the supporting cast Schlenk has constructed around Young. This is merely to say: The Hawks, just to put this narrative that won’t die to bed for at least a while, are pretty damn thrilled with how this has all turned out.

Young absolutely blistered the Bucks in Game 1 on Wednesday to the tune of a career-high 48 points. The Hawks also scored 24 points off his 11 assists. Do the math, and Young just did something no player in NBA history has ever done in a conference finals game.

The Bucks missed five late shots as the Hawks come from four points down to win.

Clint Capela put the Hawks 112-111 ahead with 29.8 seconds left and Young then netted four late free throws to shock the hosts.

Game two in the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Friday in Milwaukee.

Young had 11 assists while Capela and John Collins also recorded double-doubles for the Hawks. Capela had 12 points and a game-high 19 rebounds, while Collins added 23 points and 15 rebounds.

For the

Atlanta tops Philadelphia in Game 7 to advance to Eastern Conference finals

The Atlanta Hawks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 103-96 on Sunday to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2015. The Game 7 loss sent the No. 1 seed home early after one of the most bitterly disappointing series losses in recent memory. The 76ers blew enormous leads in Games 4 and 5, and now, they’ve blown the series as well.

As he has throughout the series, Joel Embiid led the charge for the 76ers on the offensive end of the floor as he finished with a team-high 31 points to go along with 11 rebounds. On the other side, Trae Young struggled mightily finding his shot in this one but Kevin Huerter picked up the slack in a major way, finishing with 27 points. While the Sixers were favored entering the matchup, it was Atlanta that was able to finish the job and knock off the top seed in Game 7.

With the win, the Hawks advance on to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals with Game 1 of that series scheduled for Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET at Fiserv Forum. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Game 7.

1. Sorry Simmons

Ben Simmons’ night, and really, his series, can be encapsulated by a single moment. With 3:30 left in the fourth quarter and his team trailing by two, Simmons spun around Danilo Gallinari and had a wide open dunk sitting there for him. This is what he did.

Whether it was a fear of being fouled and having to take free throws or simply a poor decision, we can’t say. But Matisse Thybulle missed one of the free throws generated by that poor decision. That’s a free point down the drain. Simmons gave up plenty of them. He attempted only four shots in this game and 45 in the series. More distressingly, he took only three shots in the fourth quarter in seven games against the Hawks. Ironically, he made all of them.

It’s hard not to think of all …

Trae Young, Atlanta even series with Philly after comeback win in Game 4

The Atlanta Hawks and the Philadelphia 76ers provided fans with an exciting playoff game on Monday night as the lower-seeded team picked up the 103-100 win they needed to even the series at 2-2.

After getting off to a slow start, Hawks All-Star Trae Young finished the win with a game-high 25 points to go along with 18 assists and four rebounds. Atlanta needed their star player to be dominant and he was just that in a game that the Hawks had to have.

On the other side, the 76ers saw all five of their starters score in double figures but, in the end, it was not enough to get the job done. As a result, the setting will shift back to Philadelphia on Wednesday night for what is now, essentially, a best-of-three series.

Here are three key takeaways from the game:

1. Hawks use 18-point comeback to tie the series

After stealing Game 1 on the road, the Hawks lost the next two games by double digits, and it seemed like the Sixers had figured things out. That was reinforced when the Sixers quickly took control in Game 4 and built an 18-point lead in the second quarter, before going into the halftime break up by 13.

The Hawks were in serious trouble at that point, and it honestly wouldn’t have been surprising if the Sixers had cruised to victory. But the Hawks weren’t ready to go home, and slowly but surely worked their way back into the game. It wasn’t always pretty, but they showed the kind of effort and fight that would make any team proud.

However, with just a few minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, they still trailed by four and needed a response. That’s when Trae Young stepped up and used his playmaking and scoring to key a 7-0 run that put the Hawks in front for good. Now, the series is all tied up at 2-2, and the Hawks still have a chance to advance to their first Eastern Conference finals since 2015.…

Joel Embiid, Philly steal home-court back with Game 3 win over Atlanta

The Philadelphia 76ers have reclaimed home-court advantage in their best-of-seven series with the Atlanta Hawks following their 127-111 win in Game 3 on Friday night.

As he has been throughout the series, Joel Embiid was masterful for the Sixers as he finished the win with a team-high 27 points. He had plenty of help though as Philadelphia had five other players also score in double figures with Tobias Harris leading the way with 22 points to help Embiid’s cause. On the other side, Trae Young led the Hawks with 28 points but, in the end, his contributions combined with the 59 points that John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari totaled weren’t enough to come away with the win at State Farm Arena.

Philadelphia now has an opportunity to push Atlanta’s backs against the wall if they’re able to pick up another win in Game 4 on Monday night.

Here are three key takeaways from the game:

1. Embiid dominates again

If you didn’t know that Joel Embiid had suffered a small meniscus tear in the first round, you would never be able to tell by the way he’s played against the Hawks. He put up 39 points and nine rebounds in Game 1.He followed that up with 40 points and 13 rebounds in Game 2, and then recorded 27 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocks on Friday night in Game 3.

The Hawks have no answer for him, and he’s showing exactly why he finished second in MVP voting this season. He’s become such a gifted offensive player that opponents often have no choice but to foul him. He got to the line a whopping 16 times in Game 3 and has now earned free throws on 24.5 percent of his offensive possessions in the playoffs, per Synergy Sports.

Of course, he’s no slouch on the defensive end either, and was especially strong in Game 3. Just take this possession for example. He sprints across the lane to show help on Danilo Gallinari, recovers to his man, …

Trae Young, Atlanta survive Game 1 after Joel Embiid, Philly storm back late

The Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks tipped off their second-round series at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon after both teams made short work of their opening-round opponents. If Game 1 was any indication, the series promises to be a lot tougher for both teams. The Hawks ultimately pulled out a 128-124 victory, but it was far from easy for them.

After dominating the first 24 minutes of the contest and taking a 20-point lead into halftime, the Hawks had their hands full in the second half as the Sixers made a furious comeback to cut the lead all the way down to three in the closing minutes of the contest. Despite being outscored 70-54 in the second half, Atlanta was able to hold on for the win, though coach Nate McMillan likely won’t be happy with his team’s play down the stretch of the game.


Just as he did against the New York Knicks in the first round, Trae Young led the way for Atlanta, especially early on. Young lit the Sixers up for 25 points and seven assists in the first half alone, and finished the game with 35 points and 10 assists. In the process, Young became the first Hawks player ever to record 35 points and 10 assists in a playoff game. He also got some major help from John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanović, as that duo combined for 42 points and eight rebounds.

One huge question regarding the series was answered before Game 1 even started: Would Joel Embiid play? He did, despite suffering a small tear in his meniscus against the Wizards. Embiid started for the Sixers, played a game-high 38 minutes and scored a game-high 39 points to go along with nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. While Sixers fans were certainly happy to see him out on the floor, his production wasn’t quite enough to help Philadelphia pull out a win in this one.

Even though they almost gave it away at the end, the Hawks have to feel …