Atlanta, June 30, 2021 — The Atlanta Hawks proved they are more than a one-man team.
Now, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks who may have to show they can get by without the Greek Freak.
With Trae Young sidelined by an unusual injury, Lou Williams and a host of Hawks stepped up to fill the void, leading Atlanta to a 110-88 rout of the Bucks in Game 4 to even the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night.
“A total team effort,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said.
In another stunning twist to a series no one saw coming, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hobbled off the court with an injured left knee, depriving the Bucks of their best player.
“We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’ll take everything as it comes. We’ll evaluate it. We’ve got a heck of a team, a heck of a roster.”
Williams started for Young and did a stellar job with 21 points, Bogdan Bogdanovic added 20 to break a series-long slump, and the Hawks pulled away in the third quarter to tie the series at two wins apiece.
Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.
It’s not known if Young or Antetokounmpo will be able to play.
Williams, long one of the NBA’s best players off the bench, will be ready to start again for the Hawks, if needed.
“I knew about an hour before this game that I was going to start, when they said Trae was out, so I just had to refocus my energy, put on a different hat and get ready for the game,” Williams said,
Young was declared out about 45 minutes before tipoff, having sustained a bone bruise when he twisted his right ankle stepping on an official’s foot along the sideline in Game 3. He watched from the bench in a black warmup suit, barely noticeable with a hood over his head and a mask across his face.
Turns out, he wasn’t needed.
“Everybody played with confidence. Everybody played at a high level,” Williams said “Going back to Milwaukee, we’re going to have to bottle it up and take it with us.”
Antetokounmpo endured a dismal first half, scoring just six points and chunking up a pair of airballs from the free-throw line. He bounced back with eight points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, including a step-back jumper that sliced Atlanta’s lead to 62-54.
The next time down the court, Williams worked a pick-and-roll with Clint Capela, who went up for a dunk that Antetokounmpo tried to contest. The Bucks star landed awkwardly and went down in a heap, grasping at his left knee while a hush fell over the arena.
The entire Milwaukee bench came out to check on Antetokounmpo, who had to be helped to the locker room with what was diagnosed as a hyperextended knee. He returned briefly to the bench, but never made it back to the court, heading to the locker room for good when the Hawks blew the game open.
Atlanta outscored the Bucks 25-8 the rest of the quarter to seize a commanding 87-62 lead.
Budenholzer is confident his team will play much better the next time out — with or without Antetokounmpo.
“We’ve got to be better on both ends,” the coach said. “Our group will gather. The character will come through.”
The Hawks led 51-38 at halftime, holding the Bucks’ to their lowest-scoring half of the postseason.
Milwaukee made only 14 of 41 shots from the field — including 5 of 23 beyond the arc — to go along with nine turnovers.
Two nights after tying his career playoff high with 38 points in a Game 3 victory, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton was held to 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
He missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.
With Young out, the Hawks needed some little-used players to step up.
No one was bigger than Cam Reddish.
In just his second appearance since February, Reddish scored 12 points, pulled down five rebounds and came up with two steals.
Reddish missed the final 42 games of the regular season with an Achilles injury and the first two rounds of the playoffs. His first appearance since Feb. 21 came during garbage time of Milwaukee’s blowout win in Game 2.
Reddish had to play a much bigger role in Game 4, coming on less than seven minutes into the game in the first wave of substitutions. He was joined by Kris Dunn, playing his third game in the playoffs and just his seventh game all season.
FREE THROW WOES
With the crowd mocking him mercilessly, counting off the number of seconds he took to shoot, Antetokounmpo missed all three of his free throws in the first half.
In fact, he only hit the rim on one of them, which had the Atlanta fans jeering him even louder.
Bucks: Milwaukee’s lowest-scoring first half of the regular season was a 31-point effort at Philadelphia on March 17. They wound up winning that game 109-105 in overtime. … The Bucks had not scored fewer than 41 points in a half during the playoffs. … Jrue Holiday was the top scorer with 19 points.
Hawks: Milwaukee’s 38-point half was the lowest allowed by Atlanta in a playoff game since holding Boston to 33 in 2016. … The Hawks came out spreading the ball around. Four players were in on first 10 points. … Capela was helped to the locker room with a towel over his face after taking an elbow in the closing minutes. The extent of his injury wasn’t known. – AP