Giannis Antetokounmpo may have finally caught a massive break in the playoffs. The Brooklyn Nets have announced that both Kyrie Irving and James Harden will miss Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks. With the matchup knotted at 2-2, this could be what finally helps the Bucks break through in the postseason.
For the third season in a row, the Bucks won the Central Division and were consistently among the best teams in the NBA. After getting the top seed in the Eastern Conference in 2019 and 2020, they finished third this year behind the Philadelphia 76ers and the Nets. With Giannis, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday leading the way, Milwaukee is one of the best two-way teams remaining in the postseason. Unfortunately, Brooklyn stands in the way of a title.
The Nets have three superstars in Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant who can take over games, plus a supporting cast that includes Joe Harris, Blake Griffin and others. The Bucks would almost certainly struggle to contain a fully-healthy Nets roster, but an injury or two could turn this series. And, frankly, that has already happened.
With Durant the only superstar left for Brooklyn, the Bucks have suddenly grabbed the upper-hand in the series. They were down 2-0, then won Games 3 and 4 to even things up. With Harden and Irving out, Game 5 should be a win -- unless Durant switches on God Mode.
In 2019, the Bucks were the best team in the Eastern Conference all season, then ran into a Kawhi Leonard-led buzzsaw in the Toronto Raptors in the conference finals. Last year in the NBA's Orlando bubble they drew a streaking Miami Heat squad in the second round. They were hammered in both series. Maybe luck is finally on their side this year.
Unpredictable good fortune is a huge part of winning championships. In 2019 the Raptors faced a Golden State Warriors team that lost Durant and Klay Thompson to injuries. In 2020, the Los Angeles Lakers stumbled in the bubble before finally finding their footing and getting hot at the right time. Then Jimmy Butler rolled his ankle in Game 1 of the NBA Finals severely impacting the Heat. Everyone will take all the luck they can in the playoffs. The LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers caught a break in 2016 when Draymond Green got himself suspended while the Warriors had a 3-1 lead. The Cavs turned the entire series around and won in seven games.
Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP who hasn't been able breakthrough in the postseason. Maybe this is finally his chance thanks to a lucky break.