If Giannis Antetokounmpo hadn’t been framed several times by the TV, intent on cheering on the bench where he was confined to the hypertension in his left knee, no one would have noticed that Milwaukee was without his twice MVP. The Bucks dominated, sweeping Atlanta 123-112 in Game-5 and taking the lead in the Finals in the East, a 3-2 that brings the Wisconsin franchise one step away from the Finals. Milwaukee has guessed all the moves: Brook Lopez pivotal of the attack, Bobby Portis in the quintet in place of Giannis, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday columns on which the team rests. Atlanta, on the other hand, got them all wrong: Trae Young was missing again, but all the things that had worked in race-4 at the Fiserv Forum have dramatically failed. Despite the efforts of Danilo Gallinari, with 19 points the most effective weapon of his even if coach McMillan (for once disastrous in the management of men) if he forgets too often on the bench. Now Atlanta is with its back to the wall: “We play the season in game-6 – says the coach of the next match, scheduled for 2.30 am on the Italian night between Saturday and Sunday -. We know we can’t make mistakes ”.
The Hawks failed in Game-5 in Milwaukee. So wrong. “We knew they would be aggressive right from the start, that they would play this way, yet we weren’t able to put in the energy they needed right away – explains Gallinari -. And they have practically what they wanted, dominating from the first quarter ”. Gallo was the most effective in trying to change things: after the -20 of the first 9 ‘he tried to attack the iron to restart the team, trying in the final with a shot from outside to snatch the game from Milwaukee’s hands. It didn’t help because Atlanta was flat, soft, unable to protect the area (66-36 Bucks), to contain the opponents (50.5% from the field), to find rhythm in attack. “We played poorly as a group,” admits McMillan. In addition to Gallo, Bogdan Bogdanovic barely saves himself (28 points with 7 triples on target, but he turned on when the match was compromised). Evil Lou Williams, the X-Factor of Game-6, bad Kevin Huerter (8 points and 7 assists), who without Young should have been the tip of the balance, still bad John Collins (19 points and 8 rebounds) who does not manages to level up. “We know what we have to do to win – says Gallo looking ahead -: we have to be intense and aggressive. We know the recipe, we just have to do it for the whole game ”.
Milwaukee did a masterpiece, imposing its will on the game from the beginning (it was 30-10 Bucks after 9 ‘), immediately finding the winning cards to replace Giannis. Lopez (33 points and 7 rebounds) played as the best NBA center, unstoppable close to the iron and also decisive in defense (4 blocks). Portis (22 points and 8 rebounds) brought aggression and energy, bewitching the crowd with his Crazy Eyes (his nickname) that drove the Bucks fans crazy. Holiday illuminated with his assists (13), returning to the basket (25 points) as in the first two games of the series. Middleton, as usual, did a bit of everything (26 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists) and everything at a high level. Milwaukee’s superiority in the area, the ability to go to the line, Lopez’s skill in reading what the defense allowed was decisive. And now the Bucks are one step away from the Finals, from that goal they set themselves at the beginning of the season. There are no guarantees that Giannis will be on the pitch in Game-6, but Milwaukee has shown they can get by without him.
Milwaukee’s start was devastating: +20 to 3 ‘from the siren, absolute domination in the area, Lopez irrepressible. Gallo tries to rekindle the Hawks spark, who close the first half below 65-56 and return to -6 when Bogdanovic opens the second half with a triple. Then Lopez goes up again, dragging the team behind him, and the Bucks easily stay around the double-digit advantage, without ever risking a real comeback. When Forbes opens the final period with the triple of 96-78 Milwaukee realizes that he has won, despite Atlanta’s timid attempts to keep the match alive until the end.
Milwaukee:Lopez 33 (14/16 from two, 0/2 from three, 5/7 free throws), Middleton 26, Holiday 25. Rebounds: Middleton 13. Assists: Holiday 13.
Atlanta: GALLINARI 19 (3/7, 2/4, 7/7 tl), 3 rebounds, 1 assist in 22’49 ”. Bogdanovic 28 (3/6, 7/16, 1/1 tl), Collins 19, Williams 17. Rebounds: Chapel 8, Collins 8. Assist: Huerter 7.