NBA

NBA Playoffs 2021: Can Atlanta slow down Milwaukee's paint dominance?

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a scary proposition for an oposing defence when he gets into the paint.

Dominant and efficient, Antetokounmpo has made a career out of scoring over and around his opponents close to the basket.

With the two-time MVP sidelined for Game 5 with a left knee injury, the Hawks may have believed the Milwaukee paint assault would subside. Instead, the Bucks poured on 66 points in the paint on 33-for-50 shooting.

Brook Lopez was the chief destroyer, tallying 33 points on 14-for-16 shooting from 2-point range. Speaking with the media as Atlanta prepare for a win-or-go-home Game 6 at home, head coach Nate McMillan denied there was any complacency with Antetokounmpo out of the lineup.

"That's a good team over there and they have a lot of options. Last night I thought they took advantage of that," McMillan said.

"They're still going to be the same team with Giannis in the lineup. They are an attack the paint team. They play that way with Giannis and they showed last night they play that way without Giannis. They want to attack the paint, attack the rim and you take take away the paint and collapse on the ball they will kick out and shoot the three.

"That was not a surprise to me what they did, how easily they did that was a surprise to me. We knew that was their game plan and we didn't do a good job of defending like we did in Game 4 and they punished us last night in the paint."

Milwaukee dominating around the rim

Points in the paint
Game 1 70 (35-for-57)
Game 2 62 (31-for-42)
Game 3 56 (28-for-48)
Game 4 44 (22-for-40)
Game 5 66 (33-for-50)

Averaging 59.6 points in the paint across the series, Milwaukee are well up on their regular season average of 48.8 points per game, while the Hawks only conceded 48.7 per outing during the regular season.

It wasn't just the big men who found success close to the basket, with Jrue Holiday also playing his typical bully ball offence against smaller defenders. McMillans point about crowding the paint and forcing the kick out pass would be a smart plan of attack.

Before Antetokounmpo's injury in Game 4, the Hawks had committed to showing more bodies in the paint, making life difficult for the Milwaukee star as he managed just six points up until halftime.

Just 51-for-174 (29.3 percent) from three for the series, the Bucks shooting woes are just worse than their overall 30.6 percent mark for the entire postseason. With the Hawks season on the line, it might be time to revert back to the strategy of Game 4, even without Antetokounmpo on the floor.

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