NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: No Giannis, no worries as Bucks move within one game of Finals

By Sports Desk July 01, 2021

The Milwaukee Bucks are on the cusp of the NBA Finals after Brook Lopez spearheaded a 123-112 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Milwaukee – eyeing their first championship since 1971 – were without superstar and two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a hyperextended knee on Thursday.

But Lopez helped pick up the slack, stepping up with a playoff career-high 33 points as the third-seeded Bucks claimed a 3-2 series lead to move within one win of the NBA Finals.

Entering the contest, the Bucks were 1-8 in Game 5 when a series was tied 2-2 since 2000, according to Stats Perform. Their lone win over that time came against Atlanta in 2010, but the Hawks came back to win the series in seven.

But Milwaukee's starters flexed their muscles in the absence of Antetokounmpo at home to the fifth-seeded Hawks.

The Bucks were 9-0 this postseason when Khris Middleton shot at least 40 percent from the floor, compared to 1-5 when he does not, prior to Game 5.

Bucks star Middleton posted 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists to help Milwaukee move a step closer to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1973-74.

Jrue Holiday also had a double-double of 25 points and 13 rebounds as Bobby Portis contributed 22 points of his own for the Bucks, who used a 36-22 opening quarter to surge clear and never look back.

The Hawks were without star guard Trae Young (foot) once again and they were unable to see off the Bucks.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks with 28 points, while John Collins (19), Daniel Gallinari (19) and Lou Williams (17) were the only other players to reach double-digit points.

 

Bucks at Hawks

The Bucks can close out the series away to the Hawks on Saturday as the Phoenix Suns await in the NBA Finals.

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  • Klopp says 'last thing I want to be is in Solskjaer's shoes' after Liverpool humiliate Man Utd Klopp says 'last thing I want to be is in Solskjaer's shoes' after Liverpool humiliate Man Utd

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said "the last thing I want to be is in Solskjaer's shoes" as he showed sympathy for his Manchester United counterpart following Sunday's 5-0 Premier League humbling at Old Trafford.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United endured a dark day in Manchester, where the embattled Red Devils were embarrassed as Liverpool ran riot on enemy turf.

    Mohamed Salah became the first Premier League player to score an away hat-trick against United, while Naby Keita and Diogo Jota were also on target for Liverpool – who led 4-0 at half-time before Paul Pogba came off the bench and was sent off within 15 minutes to add to the hosts' misery.

    United have only lost by a larger margin against Liverpool in October 1895 when the Reds beat them 7-1 at Anfield, while it was their largest margin of defeat in this fixture when playing at home as pressure mounts on under-fire boss Solskjaer.

    "Oh yeah, of course," Klopp told reporters when asked if he had sympathy for Solskjaer as Liverpool moved within a point of leaders Chelsea and United dropped to seventh and eight points off the pace.

    "I said it before, the last thing I want to be is in his shoes in that moment, but that's just how it is.

    "In these moments when you lose a game, when you lose a derby especially, it happened to me as well, you don't want to go out there in the mixed zone and give all the interviews and answer all these questions. So, for sure, it's not a nice night, so yes of course [I have sympathy]."

    Liverpool became only the second team in English top-flight history to win consecutive away games by a margin of five-plus goals without conceding themselves, after United in February-March 1960.

    Klopp's Liverpool have scored 19 goals in their first five away matches in the Premier League this season. In English top-flight history only two sides have scored more after five away games – Manchester City in 2011-12 (20) and United in 1907-08 (20).

    On whether the result represented one of the greatest days of his career, Klopp – a Champions League, Premier League and Bundesliga winner – added: "I didn't think about it, yet. It's a good day, a really good day and I don't want to be disrespectful. I have no idea, but it's a big one. We know that.

    "Obviously after the game I got told that never happened in the long history of Liverpool Football Club; this group always wanted to write their own little chapters for the big, big history book of this club.

    "This one was a little one tonight, a little chapter. People will talk about it in the future, 100 per cent, because it will not happen very often, if it happens again at all. We saw the game as well and we know we were lucky in two or three situations where United could have scored in the first half. I think they should have scored the first one, but that doesn't make our performance [any less], that’s just how it is.

    "In front of the goal, in the last third, we were exceptional. We were clinical, we were ruthless, our high press was outstanding, we really won balls in great areas, the formation was top and all these kind of things you want to see as a coach, worked out really great.

    "The difference is now that you usually don't score with each situation you have pretty much, but that's what we did and why we were 4-0 up at half-time.

    "Second half, early 5-0 and the red card, game over, so then just control it and try to get home healthy. I am not 100 per cent sure that worked out, well it didn't work out obviously because Millie [James Milner] is injured and Naby as well. We have to see how serious it is, it is very painful, so we will see. We will only know tomorrow or the day after tomorrow."

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    The Chiefs' star quarterback left the game midway through the fourth quarter after taking an inadvertent shot to the head from Tennessee's Jeffery Simmons while being dragged down by Denico Autry. 

    Mahomes did not return to the game, as Chad Henne took the reins for Kansas City's final possession, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Mahomes cleared the NFL's concussion protocol and it was his decision not to send him back into the lopsided game. 

    The most prominent indicator that Mahomes does indeed "feel fine" as he told reporters post-game was that he spoke to the media at all. If he was still in the concussion protocol he would not have been compelled to do so. 

    "Y'all saw the hit," Mahomes said. "I took my time getting up, but I felt fine. I did everything I needed to do to be here."

    The overriding question now is what Mahomes and the Chiefs can do to get back on track moving forward.

    Since Mahomes took over as Kansas City's starting quarterback for the 2018 season, the Chiefs have never lost more than four regular-season games. Sunday's ugly defeat dropped them to 3-4. 

    While Mahomes was hardly the only man at fault, he turned in one of the worst games of his career, including an all-time low 62.3 passer rating. 

    He also lost a fumble and threw his ninth interception of the season, tying him for the league lead. He threw just 11 interceptions across 29 games over the last two regular seasons combined. 

    "Today, it was probably me," he told reporters. "Just pressing a little bit too early in the game. And then we got down, and we were in that mode where you’re no-huddle, which you don’t want to be in the NFL. You can execute it a little bit, but it’s hard to sustain drives."

    The pressure of defending their AFC title appears to have been a strain on the Chiefs in general and Mahomes in particular. Sunday was the second game in his NFL career in which he did not lead a touchdown drive, the other being the 31-9 Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February. 

    "I want to win," Mahomes said. "At the end of the day, I want to win. So I try to do whatever I can to win. But you have to believe in the guys around you. You have to know you can go the long way. You can take a short pass, and guys will make guys miss. You can hang in the pocket and make throws. "

    "But at the end of the day, I just want to win. Whatever that takes, I’m going to try to do. I’ll look at this film, learn from it, and try to come out better Monday night this week."

  • Pochettino hails 10-man PSG's 'character and personality' in Marseille draw Pochettino hails 10-man PSG's 'character and personality' in Marseille draw

    Mauricio Pochettino believes Paris Saint-Germain displayed "character and personality" in their 0-0 draw with Marseille on Sunday.

    PSG largely struggled to break down a stubborn Marseille defence despite starting with Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, before their hopes of claiming all three points were dented when Achraf Hakimi received a straight red card in the 57th minute for bringing down Cengiz Under.

    Marseille went close to finding a winner in the closing stages, while Messi was chased by a spectator late in the second half, with security slow to apprehend the man.

    The result stretched PSG's unbeaten run at Marseille in Ligue 1 to nine games, while they have now kept clean sheets at the Orange Velodrome in three straight matches for the first time in their history.

    Despite PSG's lacklustre showing in attack, Pochettino was pleased with his side's efforts in front of a hostile home crowd, who routinely threw objects at PSG players as they took corners.

    "I think overall our performance was good," he told RMC Sport. 

    "We played almost 40 minutes with 10 men because of Hakimi's red card. Yes, we wanted to win, it was our idea. But, in the end, we are quite happy with this performance.

    "I think we played well. Yes, it was a very good game, with different phases. I think we just missed scoring. We did a lot of positive things. I'm pretty happy because it was a very difficult game. 

    "The team showed character and personality. By playing with 10 for 40 minutes, I think we showed a lot of character. Of course, we showed identity and style in the game."

    The result means PSG are seven points clear at the Ligue 1 summit, while Marseille are 10 points behind in fourth, although Jorge Sampaoli's side have a game in hand.

    It was their first draw of the season and, while happy with the performance, Pochettino expects his side to return to winning ways soon.

    "Obviously, as coach of PSG, we always hope to win, but I can only congratulate the players for what they did today," he added.

    "We are in search of a balance. From experience, we know that these periods in October and November are always difficult.

    "But I am happy with the progress of the team, I am satisfied with where it is today in its course of evolution."

    PSG are next in action on Friday when they host reigning champions Lille at the Parc des Princes.

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