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AP Photo Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks watches the scoreboard from the bench in Game 5 of the team’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks Thursday in Milwaukee.

ATLANTA (AP) – It became a familiar waiting pattern during the Eastern Conference Finals.

The wait to see who will play.

Nothing has changed with the series returning to Atlanta for a potentially decisive game on Saturday night between the Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Milwaukee leads 3-2 and can win their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1974.

The Hawks, who haven’t reached the final round since their days in St. Louis, hope to force the series back to Wisconsin for a deciding seventh game on Monday night.

The Phoenix Suns have already claimed the Western Conference crown and are awaiting the winner from Milwaukee-Atlanta.

How it all plays out could come from the medical report.

Hawks star Trae Young has missed two straight games with a bone contusion in his right foot since a freak accident last Sunday when he stepped on an official’s foot along the sideline.

The Bucks entered the field in Game 5 without their best player, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was sidelined by a hypertensive left knee.

The status of the two players may not be known until shortly before kick-off at State Farm Arena, although Antetokounmpo is unlikely to play after the Bucks listed him as questionable in their injury report.

The Hawks have said Young is questionable – the same status he received before the last two games.

“I have nothing for you” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said Friday during a Zoom call with media.

Both teams have shown they can win without their most prominent players.

The Hawks led from start to finish in a 22-point loss in Game 4, although it should be noted that Milwaukee was showing signs of a comeback until Antetokounmpo fell in the third quarter, landing awkwardly after an attempt. futile to block Clint Capela’s dunk.

With Young and Antetokounmpo both sidelined in Game 5, the Bucks returned the favor with a end-to-end victory after taking a 20-point lead in the first quarter.

McMillan said Young didn’t feel comfortable enough to test his diseased foot in match conditions.

“If Trae could play, he would be there”, said the coach. “It’s both the medical staff (staff) and Trae who give us their opinion on his ability to play in the game. It is not something that is long term. It’s just that he has a pain that isn’t comfortable enough for him to come out and feel he can help the team.

It has become a series of unlikely leaders.

Longtime NBA sixth man Lou Williams got the first two playoff starts of his 16-year career in place of Young, doing an admirable job at that time averaging 19 points and more than 35 minutes of playing time.

Bobby Portis was stellar in his first career playoff start on Thursday, making a perfect impression of Antetokounmpo with 22 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists.

“I was just trying to stay locked up” said Portis. “Knowing that Giannis had fallen, we had to step up. I think that’s what makes the game even better when you have to stay locked in and stay in the moment and be ready.

Portis, who signed with the Bucks as a free agent last November, appears to have finally found his place after struggling to lose teams for much of his career.

“I continued to work and I knew my time would come” he said. “I always believe that if you do things the right way and do it right, it always comes back. The cream always rises to the top. I just tried to stay in the moment and be a team guy and I give all the credit to my teammates and my coach for trusting me.

McMillan is concerned about the way his team were pushed inside by Portis and the Bucks.

Milwaukee had 28 points in the paint in the first quarter of Game 5, setting the tone that propelled the home side to a 123-112 victory.

“I don’t have an answer to that. It’s just not defending at all ”, McMillan said. “I tell the guys we’re the (punching) bag. They hit the bag every time. We have to change that. We have to strike first.

If the Hawks can fight back in Game 6, it’s not unfathomable that they can take the series away from Milwaukee.

They earned their first two series road wins, including a Game 7 triumph in seeded Philadelphia. They also won Game 1 at the Bucks field.

“We know what to do” McMillan said. “It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”

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