As a game-time decision in back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals games, Trae Young was ruled out shortly before Game 4 and Game 5. Young suffered a bone bruise in Game 3 and continues to recover, as the injury came when he accidentally stepped on the foot of an official. The Hawks managed to win Game 4 even without Young, and they were ahead when Giannis Antetokounmpo went down. However, Atlanta played possibly their worst defensive game to date last night in Game 5 as the Bucks got 33 from Brook Lopez and took the series lead, winning 123-112.
There were hopes that Young would be available, as ESPN’s Malika Andrews shared a video of him shooting prior to the start of Game 5, but he was ruled out shortly afterward. Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Young would continue to rehab his right foot in hopes of being healthy enough for Game 6. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said Friday that there is “hope” Young can play in Game 6 on Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
From the initial reports, I believed that Young would gut out the injury and play in Game 4, but it could be more serious than once anticipated. I believe it is a combination of a few things. First, it is clearly a bigger deal than fans believe it is. For some to question his willingness to be out there competing is asinine. The competitive drive of Ice Trae should never be in doubt. But more importantly, Young’s ability to dart by defenders in the blink of the eye is an important part of his game, and if he’s a shell of the player he is because of that, it does more harm than good having him out there.
Think of it like this, James Harden was essentially a non-factor in the series against the Bucks because of his lingering hamstring injury, which prevented him from being explosive and effectively eliminated his scoring and playmaking ability. Young is no different. Though it is a different injury, bone bruises limit mobility, which limits his ability to explode when driving.
The Bucks are 16-11 in games they’ve played without Antetokounmpo under Mike Budenholzer, in which their seeding was not already clinched. Atlanta’s offense didn’t struggle last night, which is a good sign, but the Hawks will need all hands on deck as they face elimination this Saturday at State Farm Arena for Game 6.