Last night, in the third quarter, Bucks superstar and 2x NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounpo went down with what looked like a serious knee injury. He was holding the back of his knee, and that’s where your ACL is located. He didn’t return to the game. It didn’t take a genius to put 2+2 together.
It’s looking like Giannis will be out for the rest of the playoffs with a torn ACL, and it’s possible we don’t even see him at all in the 2022 NBA season. When Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the 2019 Finals, he missed the entire 2020 season, although it’s worth remembering that season was suspended in early March. Still, Klay wasn’t back when the season was cut short.
The Bucks looked lost and demoralized after Giannis went down, but they were losing at the time of the injury and probably would have lost even if Giannis had avoided injury.
What was strange about that game is that the Bucks absolutely should have seized control and won given that Trae Young was out for the game with an ankle injury. The Bucks had no excuse for losing that game. They got beat by Bogdanovic, Gallinari, Lou Williams and Clint Capela.
Had the Bucks won and gone up 3-1, they would have still had a great shot at closing out the series and possibly winning a Finals even with Giannis injured. But now they’re tied at 2-2 and given the inconsistency of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holliday, I don’t think the Bucks will be able to win this series. I’m going to assume Trae comes back and at that point the Hawks have the best player in the series and they should be rightfully favored to win.
It’s just a terrible situation. This could have been Giannis’ finest moment had he been able to lead the Bucks to just 6 more wins. It could have been the moment he vaulted from good regular season player to all-time NBA great. Adding a title and presumably a Finals MVP to his already stellar resume would have would have shot him up the all-time player rankings probably into at least the top-25.
It would have been huge for the city of Milwaukee, which hasn’t won a professional sports title since 1971, when Kareem led the Bucks to a Finals victory.
This was the golden opportunity. And now it looks like it has all gone up in smoke. It’s still possible Giannis comes back, as we haven’t had any official confirmation that he tore his ACL and is out for the playoffs.
But it doesn’t look good.
And it’s within the broader context of an entire NBA postseason ravaged by injuries to star players. Honestly, it feels like it has been only star players getting hurt, which is the strangest part of it all.
- Mike Conley
- Embiid (not 100% all playoffs)
- Donovan Mitchell (not 100% all playoffs)
- Jamal Murray (already out for the year)
- LeBron (not 100% for playoffs)
- Chris Paul (shoulder in the first round, Covid the first two games of this series)
It’s the worst rash of injuries the NBA playoffs have ever seen.
At least before Giannis went down, I think most of us were still “in” on the playoffs considering we were expecting the Finals to be Suns vs. Bucks, which is a matchup that was at least plausible going into the postseason. In other words, even if there were zero injuries this postseason, it wouldn’t have been a crazy scenario to imagine the Suns meeting the Bucks in the Finals.
But now it just feels like all the intrigue and excitement have been drained out of the playoffs. They always say the NBA is a star-driven league, and now just about all the big stars are out of it. It feels like the NBA playoffs ended last night.
Sure, the playoffs will technically continue until a team is crowned the champion, but with all the best players on crutches and in walking boots, it just feels “over.” The playoffs now feel empty.
2021 is going to be the “Yeah, but all the injuries…” year. There’s no avoiding it.
Everyone in the sports media will say, “Injuries are part of the game!” They’ll pretend it’s a legitimate championship and just like any other year. They did it for the Raptors in 2019 and the Warriors in 2015. And in15-20 years, most people won’t remember all the injuries.
But the average fan, right now, knows this is an asterisk year.
The whole point of the postseason is to find out which team is the best, not which team suffered the fewest injuries.