Sports

Trae Young-less Hawks hammer Bucks to even Eastern Conference finals

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks proved they are more than a one-man team.

Now, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks who may have to show they can get by without the Greek Freak.

With Trae Young sidelined by an unusual injury, Lou Williams and a host of Hawks stepped up to fill the void, leading Atlanta to a 110-88 rout of the Bucks in Game 4 to even the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night.

“A total team effort,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said.

In another stunning twist to a series no one saw coming, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hobbled off the court with an injured left knee, depriving the Bucks of their best player.

“We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” coach Mike 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.”

Williams started for Young and did a stellar job with 21 points, Bogdan Bogdanovic added 20 to break a series-long slump, and the Hawks pulled away in the third quarter to tie the series at two wins apiece.

Lou Williams
Lou Williams
NBAE via Getty Images

Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

It’s not known if Young or Antetokounmpo will be able to play.

Williams, long one of the NBA’s best players off the bench, will be ready to start again for the Hawks, if needed.

“I knew about an hour before this game that I was going to start, when they said Trae was out, so I just had to refocus my energy, put on a different hat and get ready for the game,” Williams said,

Young was declared out about 45 minutes before tipoff, having sustained a bone bruise when he twisted his right ankle stepping on an official’s foot along the sideline in Game 3. He watched from the bench in a black warmup suit, barely noticeable with a hood over his head and a mask across his face.

Turns out, he wasn’t needed.

“Everybody played with confidence. Everybody played at a high level,” Williams said “Going back to Milwaukee, we’re going to have to bottle it up and take it with us.”

Antetokounmpo endured a dismal first half, scoring just six points and chunking up a pair of airballs from the free-throw line. He bounced back with eight points in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, including a step-back jumper that sliced Atlanta’s lead to 62-54.

The next time down the court, Williams worked a pick-and-roll with Clint Capela, who went up for a dunk that Antetokounmpo tried to contest. The Bucks star landed awkwardly and went down in a heap, grasping at his left knee while a hush fell over the arena.

The entire Milwaukee bench came out to check on Antetokounmpo, who had to be helped to the locker room with what was diagnosed as a hyperextended knee. He returned briefly to the bench, but never made it back to the court, heading to the locker room for good when the Hawks blew the game open.

Atlanta outscored the Bucks 25-8 the rest of the quarter to seize a commanding 87-62 lead.

Budenholzer is confident his team will play much better the next time out — with or without Antetokounmpo.

“We’ve got to be better on both ends,” the coach said. “Our group will gather. The character will come through.”

The Hawks led 51-38 at halftime, holding the Bucks’ to their lowest-scoring half of the postseason.

Milwaukee made only 14 of 41 shots from the field — including 5 of 23 beyond the arc — to go along with nine turnovers.

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