Without Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) or Trae Young (foot) available, both the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks had to go to battle without their superstars in a pivotal Game 5.
The Bucks' supporting cast prevailed over the Hawks, with players like Brook Lopez (33 points) and Bobby Portis (22 points) each notching playoff career-highs to put their team one win away from the NBA Finals.
The Hawks will have to defend home court to keep this series and their NBA Finals hopes alive, while Milwaukee looks to reach the championship round for the first time since 1974.
For more on a potentially series-clinching Game 6, we have you covered below.
The injury status of two superstars
Young was once again listed as a game-time decision for Game 5 but was not able to suit up due to the foot injury he suffered back in Game 3. The Hawks pulled off a Game 4 victory without their best player, competing with a spirited effort, but they couldn't match that energy when the series was tied 2-2.
In fact, it felt as though the Bucks were playing Game 5 with a similar momentum to the Hawks in Game 4, energized with the opportunity to pick up a win for their injured star teammate Antetokounmpo, who was cheering for them on the sidelines.
Young will likely be deemed as a game-time decision ahead of Game 6 as well, but it is unknown if the prolific playmaker has made any improvement since the injury last Sunday. With his team's season and championship hopes backed against a wall, this could be Young's last opportunity to suit up this season, so don't be surprised if he does whatever it takes to play.
As for Antetokounmpo, he was listed as doubtful for Game 5 before, expectedly, being announced as out. His status has not yet been updated either, although it seems safe to say that he is likely behind Young in terms of returning to the floor. The two-time MVP hyperextended his knee in Tuesday's Game 4, and despite the MRI coming back clean, he is still without a timetable for return.
Check back for updates on the status of these two stars as more information becomes available.
Can the Bucks supporting cast repeat that performance?
With Antetokounmpo absent, the expectation was that co-stars Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday would be the tandem to step up and carry the Bucks to a victory.
This isn't to say that didn't happen; Middleton did a little bit of everything, going off for 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists while Holiday had 25 points, 13 assists and six rebounds to go with suffocating defence on the perimeter. It's just to say that Lopez and Portis stole the spotlight after erupting for playoff career-highs to take Milwaukee over the top.
Lopez was a force to be reckoned with in the paint, scoring with an ease that was reminiscent of his days as an All-Star with the Brooklyn Nets. Lopez finished with 33 points while shooting 14-for-16 on 2-point attempts, also recording seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
Brook Lopez on FIRE!!- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 2, 2021
33 PTS | 7 REB | 14/18 FG pic.twitter.com/8ARAUm46HA
Portis' relentless energy was contagious, directly filling Antetokounmpo's spot in the starting lineup in a big way. The reserve-turned-starter had a career-night of his own, going for 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, bringing an attitude and presence that sparked the team and the fans at the FiservForum.
Going into Game 6, the assumption is Middleton and Holiday will continue to do what they've done all season and all playoffs. But can X-factors like Lopez and Portis replicate their Game 5 performances to bring this team to the Finals?
The Hawks' team contribution
One of the things that got Atlanta to this point in the playoffs is its depth. With Young, John Collins, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams, the Hawks have seven different players that can give you double figures scoring on any give night (eight, if you include Cam Reddish, who has recently returned to the rotation).
Without Young in the lineup in Game 4, the Hawks got significant scoring contributions from Williams, Bogdanovic, Huerter and Capela, while Reddish and Gallinari chipped in double digits as well, but Collins had a quiet offensive night.
Without Young in the lineup in Game 5, Bogdanovic, Gallinari, Collins and Williams stepped up offensively, but Huerter and Capela had off nights.
If Young can't suit up for Game 6 and Atlanta is going to keep its season alive, it will need key contributions from roughly six of the eight aforementioned players, barring an erupting scoring night from any particular individual.
Look for Bogdanovic to set the tone from the perimeter while Capela and Collins need to make their presence felt inside, containing the Bucks' tandem of Lopez and Portis.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.