X

Giannis, Khris Middleton Combine for 71 as Bucks Beat Trae Young, Hawks in Game 3

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJune 28, 2021

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Two weeks ago, the Milwaukee Bucks were a game away from elimination and Mike Budenholzer's job was on the line.

Now, they're two games away from the NBA Finals.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and Khris Middleton added 38, as the Bucks scored a 113-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bucks hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. 

Trae Young scored 35 to lead the Hawks, but no other Atlanta starter had more than 13 points.

Notable Stats

Bucks

F Giannis Antetokounmpo: 33 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists
F Khris Middleton: 38 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists

Hawks

G Trae Young: 35 points, 4 assists

Khris Middleton Exorcising Playoff Demons

Milwaukee fell short in two successive postseasons as Antetokounmpo's supporting cast, which includes Middleton, failed to provide enough support to push the team over the hump.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

With the offseason acquisition of Jrue Holiday, the Bucks added someone they thought could better fill that role. But on Sunday night, Middleton looked more than capable of playing the role of the second star alongside Antetokounmpo.

In Game 3, Middleton scorched the back of the net, stepped into the spotlight and perhaps exorcised those postseason demons once and for all. Twenty of his 38 points came in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a run where he scored eight of Milwaukee's 10 points as the Bucks went from down seven to up three with 5:13 remaining.

This performance can be added to his 38-point effort in Game 6 and 35-point night in Game 3 against Brooklyn as moments he's come up huge when the Bucks needed him most in this playoff run. He also hit a game-winner in overtime against the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the first round and hit the winning bucket, also in overtime, against the Nets in Round 2.

Middleton hasn't always been the type of star who can put together these performances every night.

His 6-of-23 outing in Game 1 can attest to that. But that's fine now. Middleton can be brilliant on some nights, shaky on others—and Holiday's hopefully going to be able to pick up the slack on nights where he can't quite fit the bill.

There wasn't any question where the second-in-command performance was coming from Sunday, though. 

Trae Can't Do It Alone...

...even though he can get pretty close. Young atoned for his ugly Game 2 effort with a brilliant scoring performance in Game 3, but the fact he finished with just four assists should tell you all you need to know about his supporting cast. 

Bogdan Bogdanovic, playing through a knee injury, has been dealing with some struggles lately. Bogdanovic shot 3-of-16 from the floor, leaving him at a robust 28.3 percent. He hasn't scored more than eight points since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

John Collins was 6-of-8 from the floor but spent all night in foul trouble. With Lou Williams failing to provide a prolonged spark off the bench in 18 minutes and Kevin Huerter putting together an average effort from beyond the arc, Young had nowhere to turn but himself when it came to scoring.

These Hawks have played a Young-centric style all season, yes, but their playoff run has been defined by the role players stepping up. Two straight games, they've failed in that task. 

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!