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NBA Playoffs 2021: Can Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday lift Milwaukee Bucks to NBA Finals? – NBA CA



Just as they were in 2019, the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves a mere two wins away from a drought-breaking NBA Finals appearance.

Unlike that failed run, this time they face the prospect of advancing without their superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the lineup.

The Bucks announced Antetokounmpo escaped ligament damage in his gruesome hyperextension of his left knee during Game 4 in Atlanta, though he is listed as doubtful for Game 5, with his status for the rest of the postseason unknown.

Seemingly shell shocked by the injury during the third quarter of Game 4, the Bucks crumbled from that moment on, allowing Atlanta to tie the series at 2-2 in a blowout win.

The series now returns to Milwaukee, with the Bucks duo of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday expected to carry a significant load in the absence of Antetokounmpo.

“You don’t want to see anybody, especially your teammate get hurt, but you kind of have to shift to somebody has to step up,” Holiday said after the Game 4 loss.

“I’ve been around the game long enough to know guys are going to get hurt. You never want to see somebody get hurt, but again … somebody else has to turn up, and that’s kind of what it is.”

After a strong start to the series shooting the ball, Holiday managed just 25 points on 28 shots across Game 3 and 4, including a 2-for-10 mark from beyond the arc.

Those struggles were similarly felt in Game 4 by Middleton, who finished just 6-for-17 from the field and 0-for-7 from deep. Outside of his fourth quarter heroics in Game 3, Middleton is a brutal 4-for-29 from long range in the series.

“It will be great if [Giannis] plays, but if not we still have a capable team,” said Middleton.

“Every year you’re hoping all your guys stay healthy. We’ve already had one guy go down for the season, it’s a part of the game. A lot of it is being healthy, some of it is luck and it’s a part of being a great team.”

Playing without Antetokounmpo in the postseason is a familiar proposition for Middleton, with the MVP going down with a severe ankle sprain in the first round against Miami last season, forcing him out in the first half of Game 4. On that night, Middleton carried the Bucks to a win, finishing with 36 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Playing without Giannis

The Bucks were 6-5 with Antetokounmpo out of the lineup during the 2020-21 regular season, going 0-2 against playoff opponents with losses to the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks.

Holiday and Middleton without Giannis on the floor (via Cleaning the Glass)
Possessions Ortg Drtg Net
Regular season 1040 119.0 118.8 +0.2
Postseason 191 108.9 114.1 -5.2

When looking at the numbers with Middleton and Holiday on the floor without Giannis, one side of the ball stands out from the other. Dominant on the defensive end for much of the postseason, the Bucks defence has cratered without the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year on the floor.

Overall, Milwaukee is giving up 104.3 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo on the floor in the postseason, while leaking 114.3 when he is on the bench.

Complicating matters further is the season-ending injury to starting guard Donte DiVincenzo, with the energetic defender a feature in the Bucks’ two most used lineups alongside Middleton and Holiday when Antetokounmpo was on the bench during the regular season. While the DiVincenzo injury has been overlooked by many, Milwaukee now finds itself down two starters in a disastrous blow at this time of the year.

Additionally, the Bucks offence has struggled in the playoffs without their star, as Milwaukee have shot an ice cold 30.6 percent from three across 15 playoff games, well down on its 38.9 percent mark from the regular season.

Middleton and Holiday are more than adequate creators in the halfcourt, capable of both scoring and facilitating to acquire good looks at the basket. But without the paint dominance of Antetokounmpo on the floor, the pair are going to have to find the range from the outside to help the Milwaukee offence come unglued.

Perhaps the biggest question that lingers for head coach Mike Budenholzer will be the rotation, with Milwaukee finding recent success with its preferred small ball lineup.

In 104 possessions this postseason, the lineup of Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Holiday, P.J. Tucker and Pat Connaughton is posting a whopping offensive rating of 135.6 while only giving up 105.8 down the other end.

Who starts for the Bucks without Giannis?
Possessions Ortg Drtg Net
Core four with Connaughton 25 64.0 133.3 -69.3
Core four with Portis 12 91.7 100.0 -8.3

Much maligned in the past for not leaning on his stars enough, Budenholzer has essentially cut his rotation to seven men with a little bit of a Bryn Forbes heat check mixed in. Despite Connaughton and Portis playing key roles off the bench against Atlanta, the above table shows that Milwaukee is about to enter unchartered territory.

Ignore the advanced numbers, just simply focus on the total possessions. With Connaughton and Portis being the obvious options to replace Antetokounmpo, the Bucks are going to run out a lineup that has barely played together during the postseason.

While the Bucks have availability concerns of their own, the Hawks are in a similar boat with Trae Young (foot) and Clint Capela (eye) both listed as questionable for Game 5.

Young has torched the Bucks at times in the pick-and-roll this series, frequently taking advantage of a back-peddling Lopez to hit difficult midrange floaters. In fact, the Hawks have feasted in the midrange as a group this series, connecting on 57.1 percent of their 63 attempts.

Unlike earlier in the series, the Bucks won’t have the small ball safety blanket to ramp up the perimeter defence by switching at all positions.

In a postseason that has produced devastating injuries with cruel frequency, the fact a drought-breaking finals appearance hinges on the health of star players is no surprise. The Bucks have the individual talent to win this series, but losing Antetokounmpo has robbed them of arguably the most versatile defender in the league, and therein lies the problem.

If Middleton, Holiday and the Bucks finally find the range from the outside, it might be enough. If not, they’ll have to figure it out on the defensive end, which is easier said than done without Antetokounmpo.

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Canada earns first medal in Tokyo with silver in women’s 4×100 freestyle swimming –



Canada has earned its first trip to the podium at the Tokyo Olympics, claiming silver in the women’s 4×100-metre swimming freestyle relay Saturday night.

Penny Oleksiak, the decorated swimmer who anchored the Canadian women to the nation’s first medal of these Games, earned her fifth career trip to the podium in the process, tying the all-time record for a summer Olympian from Canada. Rower Lesley Thompson-Willie and sprinter Phil Edwards are Canada’s other two five-time summer Games medalists.

“I think it’s kind of crazy,” Oleksiak said after the race. “I think we were all hopeful that we would get a medal. We didn’t know what medal it would really be. I think we all just wanted one. For it to be a silver, it’s pretty crazy I think.”

Kayla Sanchez, Maggie Mac Neil and Rebecca Smith rounded out Canada’s medal-winning crew. Sanchez took the lead position in the final, giving Mac Neil and Smith a chance to inch Canada closer to its eventual silver.

Then, in the final length, Oleksiak took over, propelling Canada out of what could have been a fourth-place finish and onto the podium.

“I just knew I wasn’t going to touch third,” Oleksiak said. “And when I make a decision in the race I have to execute it, so I wanted a silver medal for these girls and I wanted it so bad I wouldn’t accept anything else.”

Taylor Ruck, the fifth member of the team, didn’t swim in the final but competed in the preliminary heats and also received a medal.

Earlier in the night Mac Neil, who replaced Ruck in the final, placed third in her semifinal of the women’s 100-metre butterfly, earning a place in Sunday’s final and a chance to earn an individual medal for Canada.

In that semifinal, Mac Neil, the 2019 world champion and Canadian record holder in the event, posted a time of 56.56 seconds. She finished behind world record holder and Olympic champion Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, and Yufei Zhang of China, who finished first with a time of 55.89 seconds.

“I know from experience my second swim is usually better because I’m warmed up already,” Mac Neil said. “I was really looking forward to it. Having these girls with me definitely gave me that extra boost to get silver.”

The Australian women’s team earned gold in Saturday’s 4×100-metre freestyle, shattering the previous world record with a time of 03:29.69. Canada managed to beat out the USA by a mere three one-hundredths of a second, as the Americans finished with bronze.

The Canadian relay team secured its place in tonight’s final by posting the third-fastest time in yesterday’s semifinal with a combined time of three minutes 33.72 seconds, narrowly behind the Netherlands and Australia.

This relay team kicking off the nation’s Olympics success isn’t new. Five years ago, during the Rio Games, it was the Canadian women’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay team that earned Canada’s first medal with a bronze.

Canada’s women will seek to secure a podium position in all three relay events during the Tokyo games after achieving three bronze medals during the world championship in South Korea two years ago.

“I have a lot of faith in these people,” Sanchez said. “If you want someone to anchor it’s Penny. And if you want someone to swim second it’s Maggie. And Rebecca is a great trainer and consistent. We just did what we needed to do.”

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Tokyo 2020: Canada wins first medal after swimming to silver in women's 4×100 freestyle relay – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



The Canadian Press

Published Saturday, July 24, 2021 10:55PM EDT

Last Updated Saturday, July 24, 2021 10:55PM EDT

TOKYO — Canada has its first medal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay team raced to silver.

Penny Oleksiak and Kayla Sanchez of Toronto, Margaret Mac Neil of London, Ont., and Rebecca Smith of Red Deer, Alta., finished in a time of three minutes 32.78 seconds as Canada picked up a medal in the event for a second straight Games.

Australia won gold in a world-record time of 3:29.69, while the United States finished third in 3:32.81.

Oleksiak swam the anchor leg and narrowly beat out American Simone Manuel at the wall.

Canada’s women are looking to duplicate the success they had in the pool at the 2016 Rio Games, where they picked up six medals.

Earlier on Sunday, Mac Neil also advanced to Monday morning’s 100-metre butterfly final. The 21-year-old world champion in the event posted the sixth-fastest time in the semifinals.

An hour after qualifying for the butterfly final, Mac Neil drew into the relay lineup for Taylor Ruck who swam the heat for Canada. The women posted the third-fastest time in the preliminaries.

Sanchez led off the final followed by Mac Neil and Smith with Oleksiak bringing the team home.

Oleksiak and Ruck won a pair of freestyle relay bronze medals as 16-year-olds in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

They teamed with Sandrine Mainville and Chantal Van Landeghem in the 4 x 100 to win Canada’s first medal of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Oleksiak also swam the anchor leg in Rio.

Canada’s women aim for the podium in all three relays in Tokyo after earning three bronze at the world championship in Gwangju, South Korea two years ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2021.

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The Edmonton Oilers select big German defender Luca Munzenberger at #90 overall – Edmonton Journal



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The Edmonton Oilers trading down on Day #1 of the NHL draft was converted not 24 hours later into Defenceman Luca Munzenbeger.

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Gotta love the name! Munzenberger is an 18-year old out of Dusseldorf, Germany. He has a late (November) 2002 birth date.

He’s a big, left-handed shot at 6’3, 194 LBS.

Munzenberger spent the majority of 2020-21 with Kolner Junghaie of the DNL U20. In 6 games he went 1-2-3 and served as Team Captain. His time in junior versus pro left open the door for him to play in college. Munzenberger also played for Team Germany at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton (0-0-0 in 5GP). More on that in a minute…

Munzenberger is considered to be an excellent PK man, but possesses a big shot which makes him a threat from the point as well. Scouts say he has a soft set of hands and makes an effective first-pass out of his own zone. Those who have seen him play, namely amateur scout Brock Otten, describe the kid as a “suffocating physical defender” with a mean streak. He’s an above-average skater for his size with a massive stride and a big wingspan. He’s effective at clearing the slot and his reach helps him get to pucks ahead of attackers. In my own viewing of his highlights from the WJC’s, Munzenberger closes quickly and effectively on the opposition along the walls. The foot-speed, reach and size are visibly key tools in his ability to break up the cycle.

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A side note from that tournament that may indicate the quality of his intangibles: Munzenberger was in COVID quarantine at the very beginning ot the WJ’s, but emerged from that status prior to Christmas and rebounded with a strong performance. That would seem to speak to the kid’s resilience. The young man in a foreign country responded to a stressful situation and considerable uncertainty extremely well.

Draft analyst Steve Kournianos says of him: “A big bodied vacuum cleaner on defence… He has ideal size but the mobility and agility to cover faster players… He plays a mean, physical brand of hockey and can be considered a throwback… He has soft hands and delivers clean passes to any area in the offensive zone, but what makes Munzenberger dangerous is his lethal shot — he owns a bomb of a shot, not only for its velocity but for the sheer power he generates with little backswing. His wrister is just as nasty.”

It is fair to consider this pick as somewhat “off the board”. Elite Prospects had him at #214. No other service had him listed at all. One wonders if fellow countryman Leon Draisaitl had and offered any insight on the player to the Oilers draft team? He and his father surely know of every sharp prospect in that nation.

Munzenberger is committed to NCAA University of Vermont in 2022-23 which offers another interesting tidbit. Todd Woodcroft is the coach of that program, the brother of Bakersfield Condors bench boss Jay Woodcroft.  So, there may well be some added insight from that connection.

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