Trae Young knew he had to at least try and play in the game that could - and would - end the Atlanta Hawks' season. 

After missing the previous two games with a bone bruise on his right heel, the Hawks' star returned for Game 6 but was not his usual self in a 118-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Though the 22-year-old star obviously was not at full strength, he knew there was no way he could stomach sitting out again. 

"I didn't want to have any regrets after tonight," Young told reporters. "I didn't want to go not play and think to myself all offseason if I could have been out there and played if I could have helped my team at all in any way, it would have hurt me.

"So just go out and just play and at least leave it all out there on the floor. That's all I could do."

Young managed to play 35 minutes but made just four of 17 shots from the field and finished with 14 points - less than half his 29.8 playoff average entering the game. 

Despite his physical limitations, he had to at least try to play, but he acknowledged after the game that the injury affected his form. 

"You know me, I don't use injury as an excuse," Young said. "For me, my bruise is on my heel, so like all my pushing off my right foot, there's not anything that could really damage it worse, but it was more pain tolerance and just fighting through the pain.

"When I was running, I knew it wasn't going to get worse, but I could feel -- you know what I'm saying? You could feel pain in it. That's all it was."

To Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan, the fact that Young insisted on playing in Game 6 despite having no practice time since his injury said it all about his young star's mind-set. 

"The message was no regrets," McMillan said. "We don't want no regrets after this game tonight, and we leave everything we have out on the floor, and that's what I saw from Trae.

"The fact that he hasn't done anything on the floor since the injury, this was the first time that he has done anything live on the floor, so he was gassed."

That was evident as the game wore on, but Young has no doubt the unexpected run the Hawks made through the playoffs will serve them well in the future. 

"We've got the talent, and we've got guys that you see we can do it, and you see the flashes that we can do it," Young said. "It's just, it's hard. This s*** is hard. It's not easy.

"They've been here multiple times before and haven't been able to take that next step, and I think for us being able to go through this for a first time early, I mean, it's really good for us. I think it will only help us."

Fifty years after winning their first and only NBA title, the Milwaukee Bucks will play for the crown again. 

With their injured star Giannis Antetokounmpo watching from the sidelines, the Bucks held on for a 118-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks to claim their Eastern Conference Finals series 4-2. 

The Bucks move on to face the Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. 

After leading by four at the half, Milwaukee blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring Atlanta 44-29.

Khris Middleton had 23 points in the quarter after scoring just five in the first half. He would finish with 32 points and seven assists. 

The Bucks knew they would need Middleton and Jrue Holiday (27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists) to carry the load as Antetokounmpo missed a second straight game after hyperextending his left knee in Game 4. 

The Hawks got their star Trae Young back after he sat out the previous two games with a bone bruise in his foot, but he was nowhere near his usual self. 

Young entered the game averaging 29.8 points in the playoffs but managed only 14 on Saturday on four-of-17 shooting from the field, missing all six of his three-point attempts.

Cam Reddish emerged as the offensive star for the Hawks, coming off the bench to score 21 points on six-of-seven from three-point range and help Atlanta claw back into the game after trailing by as many as 22 in the fourth quarter. 

The Hawks got the margin down to six with less than four minutes remaining but ran out of gas in the end. The defeat represents yet another playoff disappointment for Atlanta sports teams. 

The Hawks' lone NBA title came in 1958, when they were still based in St Louis, while the NFL's Falcons have never won it all and MLB's Braves have just one World Series title, in 1995. 

Only MLS newcomers Atlanta United have cracked the code in the last quarter century with their 2018 crown. 

While the Hawks are left to wait for next year, Milwaukee are eyeing their first championship since 1971 in their first NBA Finals appearance since 1974.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out of Game 6 as the Milwaukee Bucks try to clinch an NBA Finals berth on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Bucks moved 3-2 clear in the Eastern Conference Finals after beating the Hawks 123-112 in Game 5 on Thursday, with Antetokounmpo and Atlanta's Trae Young both watching from the sidelines.

Milwaukee confirmed on Saturday several hours ahead of tip-off that the superstar will miss again for Game 6 after he hyperextended his left knee in the Game 4 loss away to the Hawks.

Two-time MVP Antetokounmpo landed awkwardly on his left leg with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter in Atlanta, where he jumped up to contest an alley-oop from Lou Williams to Clint Capela, but his knee buckled before he hobbled to the locker room.

The 'Greek Freak' has averaged a career-high 29.2 points in the playoffs, along with 13 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

Antetokounmpo had averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and a career best-tying 5.9 assists per game in the regular season.

The Hawks have announced that Young is a game-time decision having missed the past two games with a bone bruise in his right foot.

Young has averaged 29.8 points, 9.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds in his first postseason, having averaged 25.3 points, a career-high 9.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds in the regular season.

Milwaukee are eyeing their first championship since 1971, while they last reached the NBA Finals more than 45 years ago in 1973-74.

The Hawks have not featured in the Finals since their triumphant season 63 years ago when they were still based in St Louis.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful as the Milwaukee Bucks try to clinch an NBA Finals berth, while Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young is questionable for Saturday's clash.

The Bucks moved 3-2 clear in the Eastern Conference Finals after beating the Hawks 123-112 in Game 5 on Thursday, with Antetokounmpo and Young both watching from the sidelines.

Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo is likely to miss Game 6 after sitting out the previous contest due to a hyperextended left knee suffered in the Game 4 loss away to the Hawks.

Two-time MVP Antetokounmpo landed awkwardly on his left leg with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter in Atlanta, where he jumped up to contest an alley-oop from Lou Williams to Clint Capela, but his knee buckled before he hobbled to the locker room.

Young has missed back-to-back games with a bone bruise in his right foot following a freak injury in Game 3, which saw the Hawks guard step on the referee's foot at State Farm Arena.

Antetokounmpo has been averaging a career-high 29.2 points in the playoffs, along with 13.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

The 'Greek Freak' had averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and a career best-tying 5.9 assists per game in the regular season.

Young has been averaging 29.8 points, 9.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds in his first playoff campaign, having averaged 25.3 points, a career-high 9.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds in the regular season.

Milwaukee are eyeing their first championship since 1971, while they last reached the NBA Finals in 1973-74.

Champions in 1958, the Hawks have not featured in the Finals since their triumphant season 63 years ago when they were still based in St Louis.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young will miss Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a right foot bone bruise.

Young already sat out Tuesday's Game 4 win over the Milwaukee Bucks and he remains sidelined for Thursday's showdown with the NBA playoff series tied at 2-2, the Hawks confirmed prior to tip-off.

Atlanta's Young hurt his foot in the third quarter of Sunday's 113-102 defeat to the Bucks, suffering the freak injury when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

The Hawks' 110-88 win in Game 4 was the first game of this postseason in which no player on either team had 25-plus points, 10-plus rebounds or 10-plus assists, according to Stats Perform.

Milwaukee had just four points off turnovers, their fewest in any game over the last two seasons (regular season or postseason).

Atlanta's Game 4 victory was their largest playoff win since a 110-83 victory over the Boston Celtics in the 2016 first round. It was the franchise's first win by 20-plus points in the conference/division finals since the St Louis Hawks' 123-95 win over the San Francisco Warriors in the 1964 West Division Finals.

The Eastern Conference Finals took a titanic turn in Game 3 when the Atlanta Hawks' star point guard suffered a freak injury.

An unfortunate injury to the 'Greek Freak' in Game 4 presented yet another massive twist in this series.

With Trae Young considered questionable and Giannis Antetokounmpo listed as doubtful for Thursday's Game 5, the path to the NBA Finals got significantly more challenging for the Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks.

Knotted at 2-2 in the East, the question now becomes which team is better equipped to overcome the loss of its superstar.

The first major injury setback of this series occurred with the Hawks up by three points in the final minute of the third quarter on Sunday, when Young accidently stepped back onto the foot of an official after passing the ball. He went down and stayed on the court until the next whistle before heading to the locker room.

While able to return in the fourth quarter, Young was not his normal explosive self. He hobbled his way to just three fourth-quarter points on four shots and Atlanta was outscored by 15 when he was on the court as Milwaukee pulled away for a 113-102 victory to take a 2-1 series lead.

A day after the game, an MRI revealed a bone bruise in his right ankle and although he was able to go through morning shootaround prior to Tuesday's Game 4, he was ultimately ruled out shortly before tipoff.

 

The second enormous injury in the series arose a few hours after Young was scratched.

Midway through the third quarter of Game 4, Antetokounmpo jumped to try to defend a Lou Williams alley-oop pass to Clint Capela and his left knee buckled awkwardly while landing. After remaining on the floor in pain for several minutes, he made his way to the locker room and was diagnosed with a hyperextension. An MRI the following day showed no structural damage.

The Bucks fell behind by 10 on Capela's dunk on the play Antetokounmpo was hurt and shortly after he exited Atlanta went on a 15-0 run to put the game away in a 110-88 win.

That run was fuelled by a trio of 3-pointers by Bogdan Bogdanovic, who finally looked he has overcome his own injury.

Bogdanovic has been saddled by right knee soreness that Hawks coach Nate McMillan said began to crop up in Game 5 of Atlanta's Eastern Conference series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

In the Hawks' five-game first-round series against the New York Knicks and their first four games against the 76ers, Bogdanovic averaged 16.4 points on 41.4 per cent shooting and 34.6 percent from 3-point range. His 27 3-pointers led the team and Young was the only Hawk to average more points at 28.3 per game.

In those first nine playoff contests, Bogdanovic also played more minutes than any Hawk, averaging more than 37 a game.

Over the next six games, however, he averaged 6.2 points on 26.8 per cent shooting and 16.7 per cent on 30 3-point tries in a little over 25 minutes per game.

In need of a spark with Young sidelined in Game 4, Bogdanovic shook off any lingering ailments and poured in 20 points while draining six 3-pointers – one more than he made in his previous six games combined. He once again found his shooting stroke on wing 3-pointers, connecting on 5-of-6 shots from there after misfiring on 18-of-20 attempts in the previous six contests.

Not only is his production invaluable for the Hawks, Bogdanovic also excelled when teamed with Young's replacement.

Bogdanovic played 28:55 minutes with Williams and made 7 of 15 shots and half of his 12 3-point attempts when they were together. In just under five minutes without him, Bogdanovic missed all four of his shot attempts – including a pair of 3-point tries.

This entire postseason, Bogdanovic has shot better from 3-point range when teamed with Williams, connecting on 41.9 per cent (13 of 31) with him compared to 27.5 per cent (25 of 91) without him.

While Bogdanovic stepped up, so did the man who was inserted in the starting lineup in place of Young.

In his first career playoff start in his 87th postseason contest, Williams made an immediate impact. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year had 13 points by half-time – the same number of points he had in the first three games of the East Finals – and finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

In 35 minutes, the 16-year veteran had just one turnover while assisting on eight baskets, with three going to Capela as the two worked the pick-and-roll.

 

At 34 years old, Williams obviously is not as dynamic as the 22-year-old Young, whose averaging 29.8 points and 9.5 assists in the playoffs, but he proved to be plenty capable of leading Atlanta's offense, as he either scored or assisted on more than a third of the team's 43 made baskets.

Similarly to Young on the Hawks, it’s impossible for the Bucks to replace Antetokounmpo, who was averaging 29.2 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the 14 games before his injury.

Good news for Milwaukee, however, is it has not had that big of a drop-off in production without him this postseason. The Bucks are averaging 108.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court in the playoffs compared to 103.2 without him. By comparison, the Hawks are averaging 110.3 points per 100 possessions with Young on the court in the playoffs and 97.5 without him.

Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez are expected to handle more minutes with the backcourt tandem of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday shouldering more of the offensive load, and all four have shot the ball a bit better this postseason when not on the court with the two-time league MVP. (Middleton 47.9 per cent without Antetokounmpo/41.1 per cent with him, Holiday 45.5 per cent without/40.4 per cent with, Lopez 58.8 per cent without/53.9 per cent with and Portis 54.3 per cent without/45.8 per cent with.)

Middleton, meanwhile, has also already proven he can pick up the scoring slack.

He had eight of Milwaukee's first 10 points after Antetokounmpo left on Tuesday, and has three games this postseason with 35 points or more. In Bucks franchise history, only one player has more 35-point games in a single postseason and that just happens to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had six in 1973-74 and five in 1969-70.

Ultimately for Milwaukee, it could simply come down to Middleton's ability to make shots as the biggest difference between the team winning or losing. This postseason, the Bucks are 9-0 in games when Middleton shoots 40 per cent or better and 1-5 in games when he fails to reach that mark.

It is obviously not an ideal situation to be in, but Antetokounmpo and Young could still end up playing, though if they do suit up neither will likely be at full strength.

Both teams have also found some success navigating their way without their best players – the Bucks were 6-5 in the regular season without Antetokounmpo and the Hawks improved to 6-4 this season without Young on Tuesday.

Thursday's game is unlike any of those previous contests, however, with the winner moving one victory away from a berth in the NBA Finals.

A series that only appeared to be heading one way has suddenly been blown wide open again, with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks locked together at 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Having put paid to the Brooklyn Nets in the previous round via a thrilling Game 7, the much-fancied Bucks appeared to have overcome an early setback at home to take charge in the series.

Successive victories put them 2-1 ahead, but their playoff tale took an unexpected twist on Tuesday, quite literally in the case of Giannis Antetokounmpo. With his team trailing in the third quarter, the two-time MVP was hurt while trying to challenge a dunk.

The diagnosis of a hyperextended knee leaves his availability in doubt, not just for Game 5 on Thursday but also for the rest of this series and, potentially, beyond. The Phoenix Suns lie waiting in the NBA Finals.

Atlanta know all about dealing with the absence of an injured star: Trae Young – who is averaging 29.8 points and 9.5 assists in the postseason – has missed the previous two games with an ankle issue.

The point guard has been a key part of a roster that has surprised many in making it this far, knocking out the higher-seeded New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers along the way. Still, the experienced Lou Williams proved quite an able deputy for Young in Game 4 at home.

Now the teams switch back to Milwaukee amid an air of uncertainty. Where once the Bucks appeared to have seized control, now this series feels right back in the balance.

 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks – Jrue Holiday

With Giannis at best slowed by his knee issue, the other leading names for Milwaukee must step up. Khris Middleton has had a productive playoff campaign, but Holiday can do more. The point guard is averaging 16.5 points per outing and outside shooting has been an issue. His 28.7 per cent success rate from three-point range is well below his career mark of 34.6 per cent in the postseason.

Atlanta Hawks – Lou Williams

A three-time Sixth Man of the Year known for his scoring prowess off the bench, Williams had only reached double digits for points in two previous playoff outings during this postseason before managing 21 on Tuesday. That output came on seven-for-nine shooting, too. If Young is out, the Hawks will need the 34-year-old Williams to try and fill the void again.

KEY BATTLE – Survival of the fittest

While Antetokounmpo was officially determined as 'doubtful' by the Bucks on Wednesday, the Hawks listed both Young and center Clint Capela as questionable.

An arduous regular season played out amid the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on the players. While the Suns now have a chance to rest up, their next opponents face the prospect of playing at least twice more before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Neither Milwaukee nor Atlanta can afford any further injuries to key personnel at this stage.

HEAD TO HEAD

The two franchises have won 13 playoff games apiece in the rivalry. Both have recorded road victories in this series, with the Hawks needing at least one more triumph on their travels if they are to be crowned winners of the Eastern Conference.

Lou Williams says the Atlanta Hawks showed their strength in depth in the Game 4 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Hawks moved level at 2-2 in the Eastern Conference finals with a 110-88 win without Trae Young at State Farm Arena on Tuesday.

Young was ruled out after spraining his ankle when he stepped on a referee's ankle in Game 3.

Atlanta showed they can cope without 2020 All-Star Young on a painful evening for the Bucks, who lost Giannis Antetokounmpo when he suffered a hyperextended left knee.

Williams was charged with the task of replacing Young and top scored for the Hawks with 21 points and eight assists, while Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 20 points.

 

Asked about being named as a starter, shooting guard Williams said: "It's not a big adjustment. You just know your minutes are going to go up, the time of the games is going to be different.

"Other than that, you just get ready to play a basketball game. We've got to be pros. I know it's cliche to hear, but one guy goes down, another guy got to step up."

Williams revealed there was no rousing speech from Hawks coach Nate McMillan when he was informed he would be starting.

"Honestly, I was on the training table, Nate walked up, said, 'Trae is going to be out, so I'm going to start you.' I said okay, and he walked off.

"That was the conversation. It's not like a 'Remember the Titans' thing that happens in the locker room. I promise you it don't. That was it. That was the extent of our conversation, and we got ready for the game."

McMillan is unsure if Young will return in Game 5 on Thursday.

"I don't know," McMillan said. "The report was just tonight he's out. He didn't feel comfortable enough to put pressure on his foot tonight. I'll get a report tomorrow, and I'm sure it'll be a game-time decision."

Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered a hyperextended left knee in the Milwaukee Bucks' 110-88 Game 4 loss as the Atlanta Hawks levelled the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo (14 points) landed awkwardly on his left leg with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter in Atlanta on Tuesday.

The two-time NBA MVP jumped up to contest an alley-oop from John Collins and Clint Capela, but his knee buckled before hobbling to the locker room, with the Bucks trailing 62-52.

Atlanta – already missing star guard Trae Young due to a bone bruise in his foot – made the most of Antetokounmpo's absence as they levelled the series at 2-2.

Young was ruled out of the clash after suffering the freak injury when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

But the Hawks showed they are more than a one-man team as Lou Williams and Bogdan Bogdanovic starred at home to the third-seeded Bucks.

Williams was efficient with 21 points on seven-for-nine shooting in his first ever playoff start as Bogdanovic added 20 points of his own.

The Hawks took control after outscoring the Bucks 26-16 in the second period and 36-24 in the third quarter.

Milwaukee had shot 50 per cent or better from the field in each of their last two games after not reaching that mark in any of their first 12 playoff games this year. The Bucks had won nine straight playoff games going back to 2018 when making at least half of their shots.

However, the Bucks were just 39.3 per cent from the field as Jrue Holiday (19 points) and Khris Middleton (16 points) were the only other players aside from Antetokounmpo to finish in double-digits.

Holiday's nine assists took his tally to 121 this postseason – the third most behind Oscar Robertson (149 in 1974 and 124 in 1971) after eclipsing Sam Cassell (120 in 2001).

 

Suns at Clippers

The Phoenix Suns have another chance to clinch their spot in the NBA Finals when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday. Fuelled by Paul George, the Clippers – trailing 3-2 – will look to force a Game 7.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young will miss Tuesday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a right foot bone bruise.

Young hurt his foot in the third quarter of Sunday's 113-102 defeat as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed a 2-1 series lead in the NBA playoffs.

Hawks guard Young suffered the freak injury when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

Young hobbled off and was taken to the locker room to get his injury assessed, but was able to return to the court early in the fourth quarter.

The 22-year-old was able to post 35 points in a losing effort at home to the third-seeded Bucks, who were fuelled by Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Atlanta had been 15-0 this season (regular and playoffs) when Young scored 35-plus points before Sunday as he had a team-high 35 points on 12-of-23 shooting. It was his eighth 30-point game this postseason, second most in a single playoff in team history (Bob Pettit, nine in 1963).

Young began the series last week by scoring 48 points and 11 assists as the Hawks took Game 1 in Milwaukee.

He tied Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James (2007) and Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant (2001) for the most points scored in a playoff game in NBA history before turning 23 years old.

The 2020 All-Star (22 years and 277 days) also became the second youngest player in league history to record 45-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason game, with Luka Doncic (22 years and 98 days) the youngest to do so.

Young's 48 points were also the third most scored in a playoff game in Hawks history, behind only Bob Pettit (50 in 1958) and Dominique Wilkins (50 in 1986).

In Game 2, Young was held to 15 points but bounced back with 35 in the third game, going six for 14 from three-point range, taking his points per game for the week to 32.67, way up on his already impressive average of 25.3 from the regular season.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young is questionable for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals as he deals with bone bruising in his right foot.

Young hurt his ankle in the third quarter of Sunday's 113-102 defeat as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed a 2-1 series lead in the NBA playoffs.

Hawks guard Young suffered the freak injury when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

Young hobbled off and was taken to the locker room to get his injury assessed, but was able to return to the court early in the fourth quarter.

The 22-year-old was able to post 35 points in a losing effort at home to the third-seeded Bucks, who were fuelled by Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

He began the series last week by scoring 48 points and 11 assists as the Hawks took Game 1 in Milwaukee.

Young tied Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James (2007) and Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant (2001) for the most points scored in a playoff game in NBA history before turning 23 years old.

The 2020 All-Star (22 years and 277 days) also became the second youngest player in league history to record 45-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason game, with Luka Doncic (22 years and 98 days) the youngest to do so.

Young's 48 points were also the third most scored in a playoff game in Hawks history, behind only Bob Pettit (50 in 1958) and Dominique Wilkins (50 in 1986).

In Game 2, Young was held to 15 points but bounced back with 35 in the third game, going six for 14 from three-point range, taking his points per game for the week to 32.67, way up on his already impressive average of 25.3 from the regular season.

We could soon know who will be fighting it out for the NBA title, with both Conference Finals in danger of being decided emphatically.

The Phoenix Suns have surged into a 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Clippers, while title favourites the Milwaukee Bucks have recovered from a Game 1 loss to the Atlanta Hawks to lead 2-1.

The coming week will decide who will face off for the Larry O'Brien Trophy and, in this edition of Heat Check, Stats Perform looks at which players are on form heading into the decisive matchups, as well as those who need to step up.


RUNNING HOT

Reggie Jackson - Los Angeles Clippers

With Kawhi Leonard showing no sign of making a return from a knee injury that has kept him out for the past six games, the Clippers need players to improve if they are to save their season.

Los Angeles face an elimination game on Monday in the Western Conference Finals, but they can take heart from what Jackson has done in Leonard's absence.

Jackson has scored at least 20 points in five of the last six games, including a 27-point performance in the Game 7 win over the Utah Jazz.

He averaged 20.67 points per game last week, exactly 10 points more than he did in the regular season. The Clippers must have another big effort from him in Game 5.

Deandre Ayton - Phoenix Suns

Ayton enjoyed one of the defining moments of these playoffs with his game-winning alley-oop in Game 2 of the Conference Finals. He is blossoming into the star center the Suns thought they were getting when Phoenix selected him first overall in 2018.

His dramatic final basket in the second game capped a superb performance in which he produced 24 points and 14 rebounds.

Not content with just one double-double, Ayton produced another in Game 4, putting up 19 points and tallying 22 rebounds.

Over the course of the three matchups last week, Ayton recorded 20.33 points and 15 rebounds per game, both significant increases on his averages of 14.15 points and 10.54 rebounds in the regular season. No wonder Ayton has received such effusive praise from team-mate Chris Paul.

Trae Young - Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks' hopes of upsetting the odds once more against the Bucks hang in the balance with star point guard Trae Young having been diagnosed with a bone bruise, making him questionable for Game 4.

If he is ruled out, it will be a great shame as Young has played phenomenally in the playoffs, including making a superb start to the Eastern Conference Finals.

He began the series last week by scoring an astonishing 48 points as the Hawks took Game 1 in Milwaukee.

Young was held to 15 in Game 2 but bounced back with 35 in the third game, going six for 14 from three-point range, taking his points per game for the week to 32.67, way up on his already impressive average of 25.3 from the regular season.

GOING COLD...

Bogdan Bogdanovic - Atlanta Hawks

Young's presence is even more important given one of Atlanta's secondary scoring threats is having to fight through a knee injury.

Bogdanovic has continued to battle knee soreness and the impact on his play has been obvious.

He averaged over 16 points a game in the regular season, but has put up only 6.67 so far in this series.

The Hawks may need him to produce more amid the pain to improve their odds of stunning the Bucks.

Clint Capela - Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks also haven't quite got the desired production they desire from center Capela.

That may be a slightly unfair statement given that Capela has tallied double-digit rebounds in two of the three games in the series, including a double-double in the Hawks' opening win.

Yet in terms of putting up points, his output has disappointed in comparison with his regular-season numbers. Tallies of 12, two and eight give him a per-game average of 7.33 that is in stark contrast to the 15.17 he delivered in helping the Hawks clinch the fifth seed in the East.

In a series with a Bucks team whose leading lights are firing on all cylinders, that isn't going to cut it.

Paul George - Los Angeles Clippers

With the Clippers competing in a place in their first Finals without Leonard, it is a bad time for George to go cold from deep.

Having made 3.17 threes per game in the regular season, George was off the mark from beyond the arc in three games against the Suns last week.

He made an average of 1.67 threes per game, hitting on one triple in two contests, including the Game 4 loss that has put the Clippers on the brink of elimination.

George simply must rediscover his aim to keep their season alive.

Trae Young hopes to be fit for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals after the Atlanta Hawks star suffered a freak injury in a 113-102 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.

The point guard sprained his right ankle late in the third quarter when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

Young hobbled off and was taken to the locker room to get his injury assessed, but was able to return to the court early in the fourth quarter.

The 22-year-old's movement was restricted when he was returned and he will undergo a scan on Monday after doing damage in a game he finished with 35 points - a tally only bettered by Khris Middleton.

Young said following the defeat: "It's sore right now. It's hurting, it's frustrating. It's hurting a little bit and it's sore.

"I got some treatment on it. I'm going to go get some more in the morning. That's all I can do right now, is to get treatment."

Young said he had not spotted official Wright, who was out of bounds when he stepped on him.

"I didn't see him. I guess I’ve got to have eyes in the back of my head now to see who's behind me," he added.

 

Hawks coach Nate McMillan withdrew Young with a minute to go and is unsure if he will be able to call upon such a key man in Game 4 on Tuesday.

"I don't know right now," McMillan said when asked if Young will be fit. "When he returned to the floor, he was obviously limping on that [ankle]. When I subbed for him, we just decided to keep him out."

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 33 points and 11 rebounds and Middleton put up a game-high 38 points and 11 rebounds for the third-seeded Bucks.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton led the way with dominant double-doubles as the Milwaukee Bucks overpowered the Atlanta Hawks 113-102 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo posted 33 points and 11 rebounds and Middleton put up a game-high 38 points and 11 rebounds to lead the third-seeded Bucks to a 2-1 series lead in the NBA playoffs on Sunday.

The Hawks led 85-83 at the end of the third quarter before Middleton took matters into his own hands in the final period.

Middleton outscored the entire Hawks team in the fourth quarter – 20-17 – as the Bucks used a 30-17 period to seize control of the matchup.

After Middleton's big display, which also included seven assists and six three-pointers on 15-for-26 shooting, it is the second time ever a Bucks player has had a 30/10/5/5-three playoff game. The first was also Middleton.

As for two-time MVP Antetokounmpo, he joined Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players with 10-plus 30/10 games in a single postseason since 1963.

Trae Young huffed and puffed with 35 points and four assists, but the fifth-seeded Hawks lost to the Bucks on home court in Atlanta.

Hawks star Young entered the contest with 61 assists across five home games in the 2021 playoffs (12.2 per game). The last player to have 60-plus assists in their first five career home postseason games was Chris Paul in 2008 (67).

 

Clippers at Suns

The Phoenix Suns can clinch a spot in the NBA Finals with victory at home to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday.

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee Bucks trounced the Atlanta Hawks 125-91 to square the Eastern Conference Finals series at 1-1.

After dropping the series opener, the third-seeded Bucks responded by routing the visiting Hawks in Game 2 in the NBA playoffs on Friday.

Two-time MVP Antetokounmpo posted 25 points in just 29 minutes and Jrue Holiday added 22 points of his own as the Bucks eased past the fifth-seeded Hawks in Milwaukee.

The Bucks – ahead 103-63 at the end of three quarters – never trailed against the Hawks, leading by at least 30 points through the second half as both teams rested their starters for the entire fourth period.

In Game 1, Antetokounmpo and Holiday became the first pair of team-mates to each attempt 25-plus field goals and make at least half of them in a playoff game since Kyrie Irving (16-for-29) and LeBron James (15-for-27) did it for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals.

While they did not reach those numbers in the second showdown, Antetokounmpo (11-for-18 shooting) and Holiday (nine-for-14 shooting) were heavily involved again as the Bucks bounced back on home court.

Brook Lopez (16 points) and Khris Middleton (15 points) were the only other players to finish in double digits for the Bucks, who blew out the Hawks 43-17 in the second period.

Hawks star Trae Young came into the clash on the back of a 48-point, 11-assist performance in Game 1 but he was unable to replicate those numbers.

Young finished six-for-16 shooting for a team-high 15 points as starters John Collins (11 points), Clint Capela (two points and eight rebounds), Bogdan Bogdanovic (eight points) and Kevin Huerter (eight points) struggled.

 

Suns at Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers, still missing Kawhi Leonard (knee) can level the Western Conference Final at 2-2 when they host the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 on Saturday.

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