NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Budenholzer and Bucks awaiting to discover severity of Giannis injury

By Sports Desk June 29, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said the franchise are awaiting to discover the severity of Giannis Antetokounmpo's injury after the two-time NBA MVP hyperextended his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bucks' 110-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks – who levelled the series at 2-2 despite the absence of Trae Young – was compounded by a knee injury to superstar Antetokounmpo on Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo (14 points) 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 John Collins to Clint Capela, but his knee buckled before hobbling to the locker room.

The third-seeded Bucks – eyeing their first championship since 1971 – now face an anxious wait regarding the fitness of their best player heading into Thursday's Game 5 in Milwaukee.

"We'll see how he is tomorrow," 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."

"We'll take everything as it comes," Budenholzer continued. "We have a heck of a team, a heck of a roster. The guys will be ready to compete and play. That's what it's about. We got a Game 5."

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.

Budenholzer added: "Obviously, Giannis is a big part of our soul, our fibre. I'm sure there is the human element, the concern, the care for him is real."

"It's not good," Bucks veteran P.J. Tucker told reporters. "But this is the Eastern Conference Finals. There is no excuse. It doesn't matter whoever is playing, not playing.

"They've got guys hurt. Everybody is hurt. Everybody is banged up. Everybody is injured. You've got to fight through it.

"It's not good losing anybody on your team. You lose your best player, it stinks."

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 in franchise history behind Oscar Robertson (149 in 1974 and 124 in 1971) after eclipsing Sam Cassell (120 in 2001).

"They had a lot of guys play well tonight, for really the whole game," Budenholzer said. "Credit to Atlanta. They played well from the start. They played well coming off the [Trae Young] injury.

"We've got to be better on both ends. Our group will gather. The character of our group will come through. We are going home. It's 2-2. We are going back to Milwaukee."

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  • Fix the defence and accommodate Ronaldo – five problems for Rangnick to solve at Man Utd Fix the defence and accommodate Ronaldo – five problems for Rangnick to solve at Man Utd

    Manchester United have broken with modern tradition and made a footballing decision that everyone seems to think is a good one.

    The appointment of Ralf Rangnick as interim manager until the end of the season was confirmed on Monday, a day after caretaker Michael Carrick managed a creditable 1-1 draw at Premier League leaders Chelsea.

    While he hasn't been a coach for the best part of three years, Rangnick's legacy in the Bundesliga and his influence on some of Germany's finest minds makes him a shrewd appointment for United, not least because he will take up a two-year consultancy role after 2021-22.

    This, then, is a decision taken by United with a view to long-term changes to their fortunes, not simply a quick fix to arrest poor results. Still, with more than half the season still to go, Rangnick could yet guide the Red Devils to some tangible on-pitch success over the coming months – provided that he gets to work quickly on some of their biggest problems.

    Stats Perform looks at five things Rangnick must address as soon as possible...

     

    Fix the defence

    United conceded 21 goals in the first 12 games of the season; they have never previously let in more at the same stage in the competition's history. In November alone, they have faced 60 shots, the most of any side in the division.

    That tells you something about the state of their defence.

    Of course, Rangnick's gegenpressing system is likely to demand off-the-ball contributions from every player on the pitch (more on that shortly) but the rearguard is in need of some serious fine-tuning. In particular, captain Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw have seen their individual form fall off a cliff since they helped England to the final of Euro 2020; it was telling that a good defensive performance against Chelsea on Sunday came with both players sidelined.

    Getting the best out of Shaw and Maguire, arresting Aaron Wan-Bissaka's decline and getting Raphael Varane fit and integrated into the side will be essential to Rangnick's aims.

    Get Bruno firing again

    So often United's star performer under Solskjaer, Bruno Fernandes is another who has endured a comparatively poor season.

    He tallied his 50 direct goal involvement on his 58th appearance in October (30 goals, 20 assists), which is a tally only Andy Cole (43), Alan Shearer (54) and Eric Cantona (54) reached in fewer games, so it's not all bad. But the Portugal playmaker has scored just once in 19 appearances for club and country.

    He looks a player in need of a lift and, so central is he to United's attack play, he could be Rangnick's first port of call at Carrington. Well, apart from...

    Accommodate Ronaldo

    Like a black hole devouring a gas cloud, all the noise surrounding United's performances seems to be drawn inexorably back to Cristiano Ronaldo.

    It's a beguiling narrative: a five-time Ballon d'Or winner who has to start every game but who should not expect to start every game; a 36-year-old forward who no longer contributes enough to make up for any shortcomings, but one with six goals in five Champions League matches this season, two of them winners and one a last-gasp equaliser.

    There are some writing off Ronaldo's chances of winning over a coach like Rangnick who demands hard graft from every member of his team, while others say the onus is on the incoming manager to construct a unit that brings the best out of the leading male international goalscorer in history. Time will tell what the future holds.

    And just a note for the 'Ronaldo doesn't press' crowd: he made three more sprints and 21 more intensive runs against Chelsea than Jesse Lingard, who came on at the same time.

    Tie down Pogba and tidy the squad

    Some of Solskjaer's best work at United was putting together a strong squad, but that seemed to unravel in his final few months in charge.

    Lingard returned rejuvenated from West Ham but, rather than cash in when there was a demand, Solskjaer kept the England international yet gave him just 63 minutes of league action. It's now likely he'll leave for nothing next June.

    There were similarly strange decisions behind contract extensions for Eric Bailly and the seldom-seen Juan Mata, while Phil Jones is still at the club after two years of injury hell and Anthony Martial was retained despite falling way down the attacking pecking order. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson also appears unlikely now to dislodge David de Gea.

    Then there is Paul Pogba, still yet to sign a new deal or announce plans to leave for free next year, whose agent wastes few opportunities to discuss potentially interested parties. The word is that Pogba is excited to work with Rangnick, but the France star is just one of several members of the United squad who needs clarity on their positions.

    Give Donny a chance

    It felt almost pre-ordained when Donny van de Beek scored the final goal of the Solskjaer era against Watford, having come on as a substitute to rapturous (and ironic) cheers from the visiting fans.

    Van de Beek has spent most of his time at United being assured his chances would come, then left wondering when that would be. Having only started four league games in 14 months, the Netherlands international – who has lost his place in the national squad – would almost certainly have pushed to leave in January had Solskjaer stayed in the job.

    Now, Van de Beek has the opportunity to prove himself to a new manager. Rangnick's methods might not be Cruyffian exactly, but they are certainly more closely aligned to the Ajax way than Solskjaer's focus on individual inspiration.

  • India come close but are forced to settle for draw against New Zealand India come close but are forced to settle for draw against New Zealand

    A nail-biting first Test between India and New Zealand ended in a draw, despite the hosts coming within one wicket of victory in Kanpur on day five.

    Some expert spin bowling from Ravindra Jadeja (4-40) and Ravichandran Ashwin (3-35) helped India reduce their opponents to 165-9, but they were denied the win by some determined batting and poor light.

    A slow-moving pitch that showed little sign of day five deterioration made it difficult for either team to aggressively seek victory, and despite a brief flurry from Tom Latham and Kane Williamson, the Black Caps rarely looked like playing for anything other than a draw.

    Resuming on 4-1 and chasing a target of 284, New Zealand set about frustrating the hosts, not losing any wickets before lunch despite the presence of nightwatchman Will Somerville, who lasted 110 balls and managed 36 runs before succumbing to a brilliant catch from Shubman Gill off the bowling of Umesh Yadav.

    Latham (52) and Williamson (24) then occupied the crease for another 19 overs, though Latham was eventually back in the pavilion after being bowled by Ashwin.

    Ross Taylor (2), Henry Nicholls (1) and then Williamson all fell to lbw decisions to give India hope, but Tom Blundell (2) and Rachin Ravindra (18) took another nine overs out of the game before the former unluckily clipped the ball onto his stumps.

    Jadeja thought he had Ravindra lbw but the initial out decision was reversed on review with the impact outside off stump, but after taking the second new ball just a few overs later, the same bowler trapped Kyle Jameison (5) instead, this time successfully, and Tim Southee (4) soon followed to leave New Zealand 155-9.

    Urgency gripped India with the light fading over the Green Park Stadium, but they were unable to dislodge either Ravindra or Ajaz Patel, who defended the final nine overs before bad light stopped play.

    The second Test begins on Friday in Mumbai.

    Spin almost leads to win for India

    India began the morning session as favourites, but an inability to dislodge nightwatchman Will Somerville looked certain to cost them.

    A second session fightback was followed by steadily taking more wickets in the final session, and the bowling in particular of Ashwin and Jadeja took their team to the edge of a win that had seemed impossible at lunch, with all four of the latter's wickets coming via lbw. Fortune swung the way of New Zealand, though, who held on for the draw.

    Latham and Somerville save the day for Black Caps

    Latham shone with a first-innings 95, followed up by a vital 52 in the second, though more crucial was the 146 balls he ticked off as well as managing an improbable partnership of 76 with Somerville that took 32 overs out of the game.

    It was Ravindra and Patel who were the heroes at the end, holding off one last India attack in the final overs, but the work during the morning session from Latham and Somerville is what gave them the opportunity to do so.

  • Rangnick proclaimed one of football's great 'innovators' after Man Utd appointment Rangnick proclaimed one of football's great 'innovators' after Man Utd appointment

    New Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick is "one of the most respected innovators" in the game, according to football director John Murtough.

    The Red Devils announced the appointment of the former Hoffenheim, Schalke and RB Leipzig boss on Monday, eight days after the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

    Rangnick, 63, will take charge of the team for the rest of the season before taking up a two-year consultancy role at Old Trafford. He leaves a post as head of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow.

    Murtough said via the club's website: "Ralf is one of the most respected coaches and innovators in European football. He was our number one candidate for interim manager, reflecting the invaluable leadership and technical skills he will bring from almost four decades of experience in management and coaching.

    "Everyone at the club is looking forward to working with him during the season ahead, and then for a further two years in his advisory role."

    Rangnick, who is known for his high-pressing philosophy and influence on some of Bundesliga's brightest minds, started his career with his hometown club Viktoria Backnang.

    After spells with the likes of Stuttgart, Hoffenheim, Hannover and Schalke, Rangnick enjoyed a brief managerial stint with RB Leipzig, who rose from the fourth tier of German football to the Bundesliga with the new United man as director of football.

    Across 293 games in the German top flight, Rangnick has 120 victories to his name at a win percentage of 41.

    "I am excited to be joining Manchester United and focused on making this a successful season for the club," Rangnick said.

    "The squad is full of talent and has a great balance of youth and experience. All my efforts for the next six months will be on helping these players fulfil their potential, both individually and, most importantly, as a team.

    "Beyond that, I look forward to supporting the club's longer-term goals on a consultancy basis."

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