Milwaukee Bucks: Urgency is the key in the opening minutes of Game 5

Jun 27, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 27, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks’ poor showing in their Game 4 blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks is something that everyone would love to forget.

Holding a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks came out flat from the opening tip and watched as the Hawks took full control of the game. Atlanta quickly found themselves up double digits as many questioned Milwaukee’s effort and intensity out on the floor. Then, the team flatlined after Giannis Antetokounmpo exited with an injury after taking a scary fall in the third quarter. The Bucks proceeded to get walloped as their opponent never let their foot off the gas en route to their massive victory to tie up the series 2-2.

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The Hawks looked like the far hungrier and experienced team as they came out with an immediate sense of urgency to put a stranglehold on this game as the Bucks never claimed a lead from start to finish.

Looking devoid of energy from the moment this game tipped off, there were certainly questions about the Bucks’ effort in the loss. One player who spoke out directly was P.J. Tucker, who stated that this team simply must be better from the jump by playing with determination.

"“No matter who is playing, no matter who is not playing, that’s not how it’s going to go. We’re too good of a team. We’ve worked too hard to get to this point. To come out flat and be flat like that and not give the energy, effort, to be able to win this game. It was a very winnable game even when we got down early. For us to not turn it on and be able to get over that hump and be able to give ourselves a chance to win this game is disappointing. It can’t happen.”"

The Milwaukee Bucks must make an opening statement in Game 5 versus the Atlanta Hawks

As Tucker alluded to, this team must play with more tenacity from the opening tip, no matter who is on the floor for them. That largely pertains to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is listed as “doubtful” for tonight’s critical Game 5. Playing without the two-time MVP would undeniably be a seismic loss to the lineup, but the rest of this roster cannot let his absence deter their mindset leading up to this massive game. After all, they are two wins away from reaching the NBA Finals, and they just have not played the part early in these games with their play.

Antetokounmpo or not, this team needs to come out with some fire. They have looked careless in the early going throughout all four matchups thus far, throwing lazy passes, carelessly racking up turnovers, and heaving ugly shot attempts to stall the offense while the reputable defense this team has been known for is nowhere to be found. This sluggish play has given the Hawks the confidence to jump out to early leads, and as evidenced in Game 4, allow them to build up momentum and take control of the contest.

Two Bucks that need to assert themselves immediately are Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Both have played far from their best basketball in the series, and the team will need them more than ever with their superstar not at his best. For Holiday, that requires him to play smarter basketball on the offensive end, particularly with his shot selection. The Bucks will desperately need the scoring punch that he delivered in the first two games that saw him average nearly 28 points. Milwaukee needs him to come out aggressive early and help set the tone both offensively and defensively.

As for Middleton, he needs to establish a rhythm on the offensive end immediately. He has scored just 15 points on a treacherous 6-of-18 shooting from the field, including 1-of-8 from deep, across the four first quarters in this series as his slow starts continue to prove troublesome for the Bucks. Set to take on a far heavier workload, the swingman desperately needs to flip the script from these first four matchups and come out firing to give his team a better chance.

The rest of the supporting cast will have to bring the energy as well. Tucker made no bones about it in his postgame media availability that he was not pleased with the previous effort level, and he will look to get the wheels turning this time around. Pat Connaughton will see more minutes, and his scoring along with his defense could help spark some life early. The same goes for big man Bobby Portis, who is known for being an energizer due to his persistent scoring ability and knack for rebounding the basketball.

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It will take more than just energy for the Bucks to win tonight’s contest, but it would be a massive step in the right direction for this team to come out and show some heart before finding themselves in a massive hole once more.