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Future Scholars Will Be Astounded By Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals

Kyle Koster
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
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The Milwaukee Bucks captured a 3-2 series lead over the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals after breezing to a 123-112 victory. Bucks fans won't want to hear this and also shouldn't care at all, but the contest lacked a certain panache without the involvement of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Trae Young. A postseason chockfull of injuries and shorthanded squads has normalized the weirdness. Future scholars, however, will simply have no choice but to gaze on the Game 5 box score with wonder and confusion.

Because there are no shortage of bizarre nuggets.

Brook Lopez paced the Milwaukee attack with 33 points on 14-of-18 shooting. His previous playoff high was 29 back in 2019 and he'd scored more than 20 points just once this postseason before Thursday night. Khris Middleton, fresh off one of the games of his life on Sunday, played another one while notching a triple-double (26 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists). It was only his second time accomplishing the feat in either the regular or postseason (645 career games).

Bobby Portis, who scored a total of 12 points in the series against Brooklyn, exploded for 22 — his highest output since his first postseason game back in 2017 when he had 19 for the Chicago Bulls. The 6-foot-10 spark plug logged 36 minutes of on-court time, the most he's ever played.

Atlanta played one of its most important games in franchise history with a hodgepodge of pieces asked to do things they rarely, if ever, do. Lou Williams played 35 minutes for the second consecutive outing, something he's never done in the playoffs. He did, however, play 39 minutes for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2012 against the Boston Celtics. Cam Reddish logged 23 minutes in his third career postseason game. Bogdan Bogdanović set a playoff record for points with 28. Kris Dunn was on the hardwood for eight minutes and didn't do anything.

All of this to say, some weird stuff was happening at every twist and turn. Which is to be expected when each team is missing its best player. And is relatively inexperienced in the postseason realm. And has role players lesser-known among general public.

A crucial Game 5 of a conference finals that lacked any buzz and felt like the second half of a back-to-back in February they'd never put on national television is, in a way, the perfect microcosm for this injury-plagued and totally unpredictable summer NBA run. It's become a routine to tune into crunch-time action and express open shock that oh, my god, Player X is getting these minutes or wow, Player Y has 22 points in an elimination game?

There's a certain charm there and all this is easier to understand in the moment. But years down the road, podcasters are going to pull up the box score from last night and have no idea what to do with it. That's why it belongs in a museum, like Indiana Jones was always talking about it.

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