Through the first three games of this series — and, if we’re honest, a lot over the last few years — many people were questioning if Khris Middleton was dynamic enough as a scorer to play next to Giannis Antetokounmpo and win a ring for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Middleton absolutely looked like that guy after Antetokounmpo went down in the second quarter of Game 4 against the Miami Heat.
He scored 36 points, including draining the dagger three in overtime, and that plus an improved defensive effort led Milwaukee to a 118-115 overtime win that kept the Bucks’ season alive. Miami leads the series 3-1 with Game 5 on Tuesday.
The big question is whether Antetokounmpo will be available for Game 5.
The Greek Freek came out trying to put the Bucks’ on his back on Sunday, and in the first quarter and had 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
Then, early in the second quarter, Antetokounmpo stepped on the heel of Andre Iguodala trying to get around him on a drive, yelled and went to the ground, grabbing his right ankle (the same one he tweaked in Game 3).
Antetokounmpo was out for the rest of the game. He left the arena after the game is a walking boot but it is far too early to say if he will be able to play on Tuesday.
“We all fought, especially with Giannis going down the way he did,” Middleton said in his televised interview after the game. “He came out and tried to fight for us with a bad ankle, we want to have his back and fight for him.”
Where Milwaukee fought hardest was on defense. Milwaukee’s defense has looked better and better each game, cutting off Heat half-court actions and making them use most of the clock to get up a decent look. In particular, Eric Bledsoe and company have focused on Jimmy Butler. Buckets in the paint have been hard to come by for the Heat.
Miami has responded by putting up more threes — and they have the shooters to pull it off. Duncan Robinson and (surprise!) Jae Crowder were each 6-of-12 from three, and the Heat as a team shot 36.2% from three. Good, just not quite good enough on this day.
The Heat know they have a few more days and games to get it right. The question becomes will they have to do it against Antetokounmpo on Tuesday.