Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (L) and teammate Brook Lopez (R) celebrate after their win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. Photo by Matt Marton/EPA-EFE
July 1 (UPI) -- The Milwaukee Bucks overcame the absence of star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and beat the Atlanta Hawks 123-112 on Thursday night at Fiserv Forum to grab a 3-2 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
Veteran center Brook Lopez scored a playoff career-high 33 points to lead the Bucks to the victory. Milwaukee is now one win away from advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. The franchise won its lone championship in 1971.
The Bucks, playing without Antetokounmpo because of a hyperextended left knee, used a balanced attack against the Hawks in the absence of their two-time NBA MVP. Four of Milwaukee's starters recorded at least 22 points: Lopez, Khris Middleton (26), Jrue Holiday (25) and Bobby Portis (22).
"I thought we just did a great job of playing together," Lopez said. "Obviously Khris and Jrue did their normal job making plays for everyone. We want everyone scoring and doing their thing. That's tough on a defense."
The Hawks, meanwhile, were forced to take the court without their biggest star, Trae Young. He was sidelined for a second consecutive game due to a bone bruise in his right foot.
Without Young, the Hawks relied on guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who led the team with 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting from the field. Atlanta also got 19 points each from John Collins and Danilo Gallinari, while veteran guard Lou Williams added 17 points as Young's replacement in the lineup.
The Bucks never trailed in the matchup and led by as many as 20 points in the opening quarter. Atlanta managed to cut the lead to 65-59 when Bogdanovic sank a 3-pointer near the start of the third, but that proved to be as close as the Hawks would get.
"They were more physical," Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said. "They hit us in the mouth and we just did not recover."
Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The winner of the series will face the Phoenix Suns in the Finals.