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How Can The Bucks Win Without Giannis?

First, we take one last look at the NBA Finals as they get set to tip off. The Suns are clear favorites, especially in light of the uncertainty around Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury. But we wouldn’t be surprised if Milwaukee is able to win a  game or two without its marquee star. The Bucks have adapted into a team that plays differently without Giannis but still plays well — the Bucks often rely on Khris Middleton to close, anyway. The Suns are also more than just Chris Paul and Devin Booker. By drafting well and building from the middle, they’ve been able to put together one of the most complete teams we’ve seen in a while. Even with all the injuries, we don’t think any asterisks are needed for this 2021 Finals matchup. There are always injuries. It’s not necessarily surprising that the two teams that have been very adaptable and able to roll out contingency plans are now getting to plan for each other. It should be very fun to watch. 

Next, we turn our attention to the Olympics — and, unfortunately, to a very bad week of press for the International Olympic Committee. Sha’Carri Richardson’s 30-day suspension over a positive THC test made the biggest headlines — and in the Hot Takedown team’s opinion, including cannabis on a list of banned substances is an outdated, overly punitive decision held over from a different political climate. The justification that cannabis is “against the spirit of the sport” is meaningless. The IOC should police performance-enhancing substances, but its job should really end outside of that. The world is wide and full of contradictory laws and countries with differing attitudes. But the Olympics don’t enforce bans on other things that are illegal in some countries, like alcohol. If we were put in charge of the Olympics, that would be one of the many changes we might make. We’d also take a serious look at distributing the Games across multiple cities, which might cause less disruption to countries and less oligarchic construction boondoggles. 

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil uses the news that Shohei Ohtani will be pulling double duty in this year’s All-Star Game to compare the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way star to two other legendary pitcher-hitters: Babe Ruth and “Bullet Joe” Rogan. Ohtani became the first player to be selected as both a pitcher and hitter; Ruth and Rogan both could have beaten him to the punch, but they were well into their careers by the time their leagues instituted All-Star Games. Ohtani’s pitching hasn’t yet reached Rogan’s career high of 14.9 WAR in a season, but he is putting up Rogan-like numbers, and he’s doing it in a truly combined way neither Ruth nor Rogan managed in their respective eras. 

What we’re looking at this week: 

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.