Game 4 was a complete disaster for the Milwaukee Bucks, with the blowout loss somehow feeling inconsequential compared to the health concerns over 2-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Landing awkwardly on his left leg during the third quarter, Antetokounmpo hyperextended his knee, writhing in pain on the floor for several minutes before being helped to the locker room.
The superstar big man would not return from that moment on, with the Bucks now anxiously awaiting the results of a scan to be taken tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.
"I think based of how he was grabbing his leg it seemed like it was pretty bad," Bucks guard Jrue Holiday told reporters. "From there, you're concerned and you don't want to see anyone, especially a teammate get hurt but you kind of have to shift to somebody else stepping up."
The Bucks were not able to step up in the minutes following Antetokounmpo's exit, with the Hawks rattling of a 15-0 run to bust the game wide open.
"This is the Eastern Conference Finals. There's no excuses."@MotorolaUS | #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/NevLG8RLGJ- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 30, 2021
"I think we made some headway to start the third quarter so I think the guys were good coming out of the locker room but overall whether it was before the injury or after the injury credit to Atlanta for the way they played tonight," head coach Mike Budenholzer said.
"They're competing trying to play a game. Obviously, Giannis is a big part of our soul and our fibre."
"I'm sure there was a human element where the concern and care for him is real but they're in the heat of the battle, trying to be there for him while he's not on the court."
Antetokounmpo returned to the bench briefly, before limping back to the locker room as he was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
"I know historically it's impossible to keep him off the court, it's impossible to keep him away from his teammates. My guess is he probably wants to play, is trying to play, and if not let his teammates know that he's there for them," Budenholzer said.
"One game at a time. That's it."@MotorolaUS | #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/XuFX8IMfCV- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 30, 2021
Injury aside, Milwaukee came out flat for the second consecutive game in the series, falling behind double digits early in the first quarter.
"They came out with desperation. Desperation that they didn't want to go down 3-1 and we didn't have that some fight," Holiday said. "Every game we've got to come out like it's our last game."
"I feel like they had it going, they had control of the whole game from the beginning."
With just one night off before Game 5, Milwaukee will have to face the reality of playing without their MVP as they attempt to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.
"Guys get a chance to step up, guys get a chance to make plays on the biggest stage. I feel like us playing without him has helped us know what it's like. At the end of the day we'd rather play with him," said Holiday, who finished with 19 points and nine assists.
If Antetokounmpo is unable to play, much responsibility will lie with Holiday and All-Star Khris Middleton, with Budenholzer believing his squad will be up to the task.
"We'll take everything as it comes and evaluate it. We've got a heck of a team, a heck of a roster and the guys will be ready to compete and play. That's what it's about. We've got a Game 5, we'll watch the film, we'll prepare, we'll get ready. The guys love competing, they love playing, it's what it's all about."
"They've both played well, I think they're both great players. We'll figure out how we can help them and help themselves a little bit. It's something to look at and work to improve on going in to Game 5."
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.