The Phoenix Suns have already booked their spots in the 2021 NBA Finals, which leaves the Eastern Conference Finals the task of entertaining us for the rest of the week. With the series all tied up, which between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks will take that giant leap to a 3-2 series lead and move a victory away from joining the Suns in the grandest stage of NBA basketball?
Catch this game live on Friday, July 2, at 8:30 AM, Manila time.
HOME TEAM: Milwaukee Bucks (2-2, 1-1 at home)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Jrue Holiday
- SG: Pat Connaughton
- SF: Khris Middleton
- PF: PJ Tucker
- C: Brook Lopez
The good news for the Bucks is that Giannis Antetokounmpo has apparently escaped a major injury, with no “structural damage” on the right knee he injured in Game 4’s 110-88 home loss to the Hawks. The bad news is that Milwaukee is very much likely to miss his services in the pivotal Game 5 matchup. Then back again to another good news: the Bucks still have a healthy pair of stars in Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
With the looming possibility of Giannis missing at least one game, this is a perfect time and opportunity for Middleton that he’s more than just a Robin to the Greek Freak’s Batman. Middleton has been inconsistent in the conference finals round, but the Bucks will trust him with an increased usage rate Friday morning.
So far in the series, Middleton is averaging 21.0 points on 41.8 FG%, while Holiday is putting up 20.0 points on 46.3 FG%. The Bucks need to find their outside shooting in Game 5, as their inside scoring is expected to get a huge hit, with the presumption that Giannis will sit the game out.
Milwaukee has covered the spread in four of its last five games.
ROAD TEAM: Atlanta Hawks (2-2, 1-1 on the road)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Trae Young (questionable)
- SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic (probable)
- SF: Kevin Huerter
- PF: John Collins
- C: Clint Capela
Of course, the Hawks beat Milwaukee without Trae Young in Game 4. How else could a game like that in this crazy playoffs end? But seriously, by winning that game, Atlanta just bought themselves more time to wait for Young’s ankle to heal up.
They can still afford to rest him for Game 5 and give him the green light in Game 6 while handing the keys to the backcourt to Lou Williams. Young, however, traveled with the Hawks to Milwaukee, offering some glimmer of hope that he would suit up and play. In any case, the Hawks must be licking their chops over the prospect of nailing a Bucks team that won’t likely have Antetokounmpo. Atlanta hasn’t shown anything to make believers out of their ability to contain the two-time NBA MVP, and not having him on the floor would greatly limit Milwaukee’s dominance in the paint.
That’s already a huge plus for the Hawks, not to mention that Giannis is also Milwaukee’s top rebounder. So far in the conference finals, the Hawks are averaging 104.8 points per game and shooting 31.5 3FG%.
The Hawks are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games as a road underdog.
Spread: Without Giannis, the Bucks will be a more perimeter-oriented team, which doesn’t sound good for them, as they are not shooting the ball from behind the arc in this series. Take the Hawks to cover (+3.5)
Over/Under: Giannis’ absence could result to more even scoring chances for both teams. Take the Over (215.0)