NBA 2021 playoffs – Without Giannis, the supporting cast members of the Milwaukee Bucks showed the best versions of themselves

It was at the start of Game 5 Thursday night – 2 minutes and 5 seconds later, to be exact – and Jrue Holidays, open from 3, caught a wing pass from PJ Tucker.

With injured Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting at the end of the bench in a cream-colored long-sleeved T-shirt and gray sweatpants, the Bucks had roared into the game, the energy seeping inside the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

Holiday’s 3 fell, giving the Milwaukee dollars a 10-2 lead and forcing a Atlanta hawks free time. It was the reverse of Tuesday’s Game 4 in Atlanta, where without Bring young people, the Hawks took an early 10-2 lead, forcing a time out for the Bucks. And as the Hawks did back then, riding the wave of an inspired roster and determined to answer the call of duty to carry the burden of an absent star, the Bucks never gave up.

Building the Bucks roster has been a work in progress since the team achieved what they had at Antetokounmpo. By refining roles and uncovering hidden gems to form a complementary group, the Bucks tinkered around to find the right people. In a match in which this group had to find their own offense outside of the double MVP, the supporting cast supplemented Antetokounmpo by filling their void to win Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. 123-112 and take a 3-2 lead in series.

Start with Brook lopez, who may have played the game of his life with a career-high 33 playoff points on 14 of 18 shots, dominating on the inside with his towering size and raw strength.

“We have to find a way to give ourselves a chance, and Brook is going into painting, he’s really been doing it his whole career,” the coach Mike Budenholzer mentionned. “Credit to him.”

Lopez was a major beneficiary of this discovery process in 2018 when he signed with the Bucks via their semi-annual exception, at just $ 3.4 million for a season.

Once upon a time, the then-New Jersey Nets’ No.10 pick himself spent his first nine seasons as the primary option, with offenses organized around his skills and rosters designed to suit him. He is the all-time leading scorer in Nets history, racking up seasons consistently hovering around 20 points per game.

In his first eight seasons with the Nets, he collected a total of 31 3 points. His ninth season, he took 387, then was traded to Los Angeles Lakers as part of the move that sent D’Angelo Russell at Brooklyn. He was part of a lottery-linked Lakers team that was largely a dysfunctional mess and needed a reboot.

In his first season with the Bucks, he hit nearly $ 200, becoming a space-creating piece for the puzzle they were trying to solve for Antetokounmpo. This culminated in a new $ 52 million contract from Milwaukee in 2019, and now as a rim-protecting 3-point marksmanship stretch 5, Lopez’s career has had a rebirth.

“I’m just trying to go out there and help my team as much as possible. Whether it’s playing this new modern 3-ball game, playing on the floor or being inside. “said Lopez. “What was great today was that we were all just basketball players, attacking and defending. We were up against each other, making plays, making extra passes. It was a lot of fun. tonight.”

Then there’s Holiday, the two-way upgrade for which the Bucks have ceded some of their long-term future to the New Orleans Pelicans. In some ways it has already fulfilled its value as possible the precursor to persuade Antetokounmpo sign a five-year contract to stay with the Bucks.

The Bucks were looking for Holiday to be more reliable and to support them offensively in the dry spells. He’s been inconsistent, but as the Bucks move forward, his role as a goalscorer and goalscorer is vital. They gave up three first rounds and two pick trades to get it, but 25 points and 13 assists in 42 minutes in Game 5 appeared to be worth at least two.

“I just knew I had to be aggressive. Whatever that meant, whether Giannis was away or not, I knew I had to be aggressive,” Holiday said. “I feel like the best way to help my team is to go into the paintwork and in and out for 3 seconds and stares wide open… Brook dishes for monster dunks like that.”

The Bucks have signed Bobby portis last offseason, adding to their options at 4 with another spacer and goalscorer. Portis has become a fan favorite, perhaps in part because of his very singing name, or the hyperactive energy and intensity with which he plays. He moved on to a part-time 5-ball role, giving Budenholzer the ability to adjust defensive schemes in unusual ways, adding new looks for Young and the Hawks. Portis has always been a capable goalscorer, Thursday’s 22 points in 36 minutes is an example of how easily it can be for him at times.

“Coming here was the best decision of my career,” said Portis. “To have good vets like Giannis and Brook to train me on how to be a two-way player on the defensive end and guys like Khris [Middleton] and Jrue to put the ball in the hole and still trust me to shoot, and to have a coach like Coach Bud and all the coaching staff… that was just a great business decision. “

And, of course, Middleton, who showed his strengths in Game 3 and played with a steady hand in Game 5 with 26 points in 45 minutes. Without Antetokounmpo, he was the obvious option to step up and add to his plate. But Middleton is a focused rhythm player, waiting for his hand to get warm and the game open to him. His history as a player is well written, a second round pick among Texas A&M unexpectedly become Antetokounmpo’s star sidekick – and closing Bucks closer.

Whenever a star player is absent, every coach and player likes to say that it is not a person who must rise up, but a collective contribution to make up for his absence. When a list is invoked, this is where the team is critical.

“A lot of people expect me to do this,” Middleton said of the estate without Giannis. “For me it’s just about playing in the game, trying to involve myself and others. Knowing that the focal point will be a lot more on me and Jrue too. Jrue did a great job in setting the tone first. himself going, other guys, Brook and Bobby. “

As with the Hawks in Game 4, the story of this series and the playoffs is a war of attrition. As the Bucks walk away from a Finals win, with or without Antetokounmpo, they showed that, perhaps, all the pieces fit together.

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