The Milwaukee Bucks are on to the second round. Days after walking out on their scheduled matchup with the Orlando Magic, and sparking boycotts across the sports world following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Bucks returned to the floor Saturday for Game 5. They had little trouble, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 118-104 win, to take the series, 4-1.
It didn’t take long for the Bucks to take control of the game, and they led by as much as 21 in the second half. It seemed like they would coast to victory, but the Magic kept on fighting and gave them a bit of a scare in the fourth. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points and 17 rebounds to lead the way. The Bucks will now move on to face the Miami Heat, who swept the Indiana Pacers.
As for the Magic, this is the second straight season that they’ve lost in the first round in five games. They deserve credit for how they competed in all of these games, but with Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon injured, they simply didn’t have enough talent to hang with the Bucks.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
Bucks bring basketball back
There was no NBA basketball for the past three nights, as the Bucks started a protest movement that spanned multiple professional leagues, including the WNBA, NHL, MLS and MLB. Prior to their originally scheduled Game 5, they refused to come out to the court, and sequestered themselves in the locker room, while trying to get a hold of state officials in Wisconsin in the wake of Kenosha police shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back.
They had hoped to force a forfeit, and just continue with Game 6 as scheduled, but the Magic declined that option, and the other teams in action on Wednesday followed their lead. All games were postponed, and the players held an all-hands-on-deck meeting late that night to discuss whether or not they would even continue the season.
Eventually, they agreed to play, with players and owners agreeing to social justice initiatives. Games on Thursday and Friday were also postponed, and the schedule was essentially bumped back three days. Considering they were the ones leading the way on Wednesday, it was fitting the Bucks were the first to play on Saturday.
Giannis does it again
Giannis Antetokounmpo has already won Defensive Player of the Year, and will likely soon add his second straight MVP, becoming just the third player ever to win both of those awards in the same season. On Saturday, he delivered the type of performance an MVP should in a close-out game.
He finished with 28 points and 17 rebounds to lead the way, giving him his fourth game with at least 28 points and 15 rebounds in the series. Not that many teams do, but the Magic had no answer for him whatsoever, as he dominated at the rim, throwing down dunk after dunk.
The only thing that slowed him down was himself, as he got into foul trouble and played limited minutes in the second half. But in a way, that only made his performance more impressive. Going for 28 and 17 in just 28 minutes is remarkable. The Bucks will need more of that as their opponents get tougher and tougher.
On to Miami
Even after they looked sluggish in the seeding games, and lost Game 1 to the Magic, no one had any doubts that the Bucks would take care of business in this matchup. And, as expected, they won the next four games — all by double digits — to take the series, 4-1. Now, the real challenge begins.
Despite everything they did in the pre-shutdown portion of the season, the Bucks still have to prove themselves in the playoffs. Especially after their collapse in the Eastern Conference finals last season against the Toronto Raptors. The Miami Heat will be waiting in the second round, and figure to provide a strong test.
Along with the Denver Nuggets, Miami was one of just two teams to beat Milwaukee twice before the pandemic, and had a 23-point lead in their seeding game matchup, before the Bucks made a huge second-half comeback. Between Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr., Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler, the Heat have all sorts of defenders to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo, and are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league.
The Bucks will still be favored, but there’s no more margin for error. They have to be ready to go from Game 1.