Giannis Antetokounmpo sheds light on his knee injury and absence from the Bucks

Sports

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 16 April, 2021 - 04:54pm 12 views

Is Trae Young playing tonight vs bucks?

Trae Young is listed as questionable tonight in a matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. ... Antetokounmpo been out since April 3 and has missed six games in a row for the Bucks. The Action NetworkNBA Injury News & Starting Lineups (April 15): Trae Young, Giannis Antetokounmpo Cleared to Return Thursday

Read full article at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Bucks vs. Hawks - Game Recap - April 15, 2021

ESPN 16 April, 2021 - 06:49pm

ATLANTA -- — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 15 points in his return to the Milwaukee lineup and got plenty of help from his teammates as the Bucks cooled off the surging Atlanta Hawks 120-109 Thursday night.

Antetokounmpo had missed six games with an ailing left knee before getting cleared to play in Atlanta, where he starred in the NBA All-Star Game last month.

He played 25 minutes in his return, hitting 7 of 12 shots to go along with five rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block. He didn't have to carry too much of a load as the Bucks put seven players in double figures, led by Jrue Holiday with 23 points.

“Watching this team play six games, I realize this team is really, really good,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just want to help as much as I can.”

While the Bucks had won their last two games without Antetokounmpo, they were thrilled to have him back on the court.

“He's our best player,” Holiday said. “That's the caliber of team we want to be, especially now going into the end of the season. Seeing Giannis out there, he's so dominant, he attracts so many people. He makes the game easier for everybody else.”

The Hawks got as close as 113-105 with just over two minutes remaining, but the Bucks sealed the victory with a sequence in which they claimed three straight offensive rebounds, the last leading to a put-back dunk by Brook Lopez.

Pat Connaughton finished off Atlanta with a 3-pointer.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks with 28 points, hitting six 3-pointers. Trae Young returned after missing two games with a calf injury but had a terrible night, connecting on just 3 of 17 shots.

“That was the key to the game plan,” said Holiday, one of those charged with guarding the Atlanta star. “I think we did a pretty good job of not giving him any easy, open looks.”

The Hawks lost for only the sixth time in 22 games since Nate McMillan took over as interim coach.

Antetokounmpo added another good memory from State Farm Arena. He was MVP of the All-Star Game, hitting all 16 of his shots for 35 points — the most baskets without a miss in the history of the midseason showcase.

The Bucks stretched their lead for third place in the Eastern Conference to 5 1/2 games over the fourth-place Hawks.

“We ran into a team with championship ambitions,” said Solomon Hill, who scored 18 points for Atlanta.

Milwaukee led by as many as 14 in the first half, settling for a 64-52 edge at the break.

Getting hot from long range, Atlanta quickly erased the deficit in the third. Bogdanovic knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Hawks ahead 74-73 near the midway point of the period — Atlanta's first lead since the opening minutes.

But, in a game of spurts, Milwaukee quickly regained the momentum and pushed the margin at the end of the third to exactly where it stood at halftime, 94-82.

The Bucks wrapped up a stretch in which they played nine of 10 on the road.

The Hawks, who last made the playoffs in 2017, were eager to show how much improvement they've made this season — especially making a rare appearance on national television.

They looked a bit blinded by the TNT spotlight.

“It's our first time really understanding the moment and the implications that it has,” Hill said. “We just lacked it.”

While the Hawks are fourth in the tightly bunched East, Hill noted they could easily drop back to a spot that would force them to take part in the play-in tournament ahead of the playoffs.

“We need these games,” he said “It's going to be a dogfight all the way through."

Bucks: Lopez had 19 points and 12 rebounds. ... Connaughton made four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. ... Milwaukee had a 58-46 edge on the boards.

Hawks: F Danilo Gallinari missed his third straight game with a foot injury. ... Atlanta also played again without John Collins, De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, all out with longer-term injuries. ... C Clint Capela had 16 points and 16 rebounds, but no other Hawks player had more than six rebounds.

Bucks: Return to Milwaukee on Saturday for just their second home game in the past three weeks. They will host the Memphis Grizzlies to start a four-game homestand..

Hawks: Host the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

Nigeria's Rivers Hoopers have added three players with NBA and G-League backgrounds to their roster ahead of the inaugural Basketball Africa League season, including former NBA guard Ben Uzoh.

Warriors sideline reporter Kerith Burke asks on Twitter for Steph Curry to do the airplane celebration, he obliges after a fourth-quarter three.

Jaylen Brown puts up 40 points on 17-of-20 shooting as he leads the Celtics to a 121-113 victory over the Lakers.

Trae Young returns but Hawks fall to Bucks

Atlanta Journal Constitution 16 April, 2021 - 06:49pm

The Hawks (30-26) couldn’t get enough stops in a 120-109 loss to the Bucks (35-20) Thursday at State Farm Arena.

Next up, the Hawks will continue their homestand vs. the Pacers Sunday.

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. After missing two games in a row with a left calf contusion, Trae Young was available to play, but looked off his shooting game and had six turnovers. Young had 15 points and led the Hawks with nine assists, but went 3-for-17 from the field and often couldn’t get his signature floater to fall. Young made his first basket of the night at the 6:42 mark in the third quarter. In addition, the Hawks sure could have used the rebounding of John Collins (left ankle sprain) and the scoring punch of Danilo Gallinari (right foot soreness), both of whom are still out with injury, in addition to De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness), Tony Snell (right ankle sprain), Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) and Kris Dunn (right ankle surgery). “He’s in uniform, and he was on the floor, so we’re not going to put guys on the floor if they’re not ready to go,” interim coach Nate McMillan said. “He didn’t have a good shooting night, had some turnovers tonight, and that could be from the lack of rhythm, hasn’t played in the last couple games.”

2. Trailing by 12 at halftime, a great start to the third quarter got the Hawks back in the game, but with so many guys injured, they struggled to get stops that would have allowed them to sustain a brief lead. A 3-pointer by Bogdan Bogdanovic put the Hawks up, 74-73, at the 5:51 mark, but the Bucks ended the third on a 10-2 run to revert the deficit right back where it was at halftime. A floater by Young made it an eight-point game with 2:25 left, but Milwaukee responded swiftly with a 7-0 run to resume control and comfortably close out the win. The Bucks won the rebounding battle, 58-46, and scored 21 points off the Hawks’ 10 turnovers. “I really didn’t feel like we established ourselves really at any point in this game, defensively. ... Anytime we made a mistake, we turned the ball over, they made us pay,” McMillan said. “They converted those turnovers into points.”

3. Bogdanogic has been on a tear lately, and that continued Thursday. He led the Hawks with 28 points, going 6-for-12 from 3-point range, adding seven assists and six rebounds. Over the past nine games, Bogdanovic is shooting 53% from beyond the arc. Solomon Hill added a season-high 18 points and made a season-high six 3′s (going 6-for-8).

4. The Hawks had to contend with Giannis Antetokounmpo, the third-highest scorer in the league (28.9 points per game) who had missed six straight games with left knee soreness. Antetokounmpo averages 34 minutes per game, but only played 25, though he still had 15 points, five rebounds and three steals in that time. Jrue Holiday led the Bucks with 23 points and seven assists, and seven Bucks players finished in double-figures: Khris Middleton (10), Brook Lopez (19), Bobby Portis (11), Pat Connaughton (14) and Jeff Teague (11), in addition to Antetokounmpo and Holiday.

5. Entering Thursday, this game pitted the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference seed (the Hawks) vs. the No. 3 seed (the Bucks). Down the stretch of the season’s second half, the Hawks will try to either maintain their spot in the standings or gain some ground, but Hill didn’t like the energy from the Hawks in this big matchup: “We lacked a little enthusiasm for this game today. The energy was a little bit off. We’ve done a good job of kind of settling into how we want to play. We do want to be a more aggressive team defensively. And tonight we ran into a team that, they have championship visions. ... This is our first time really understanding the moment, the implications that it has as a team that, that’s the 3-4 matchup at the moment.”

21 (how many points the Bucks scored off the Hawks’ 10 turnovers)

Jrue Holiday (played well defensively and led the Bucks with 23 points)

“They pretty much had control of the game the entire game.” (Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan on the Bucks’ steady lead for most of the night)

Giannis Returning From Knee Injury Tonight

hoopsrumors.com 16 April, 2021 - 06:49pm

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has revealed that All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is available for Milwaukee’s contest with the Hawks on Thursday night, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. This will be Antetokounmpo’s first appearance following a six-game absence due to left knee soreness.

Antetokounmpo has not played for the Bucks since the team’s 127-109 win over the Trail Blazers on April 2. The Bucks went 3-3 with their two-time MVP sidelined.

Milwaukee played the do-it-all superstar’s health status close to the chest, staying mum on an exact timeline for his recovery from what has been the longest-term injury of Antetokounmpo’s eight-year NBA career.

The five-time All-Star is putting together another MVP-caliber season, averaging 28.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 6.2 APG for the 34-20 Bucks, currently the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Hawks headed back to NBA playoffs, where they’ll be a tough out

Atlanta Journal Constitution 16 April, 2021 - 05:58pm

The Bucks didn’t expose the Hawks as pretenders Thursday at State Farm Arena. The visitors didn’t get the home team’s best shot. The Hawks were down two starters and three other rotation players. And Trae Young looked rusty after missing the previous two games with a calf injury.

Still, Milwaukee did show the difference between the Hawks and a team with “championship visions,” as Hawks forward Solomon Hill put it. The Bucks were one spot ahead of the Hawks in the Eastern Conference. Their commanding 120-109 victory came with two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo limited to 25 minutes in his return from a knee injury. Even when healthy, the Hawks aren’t on Milwaukee’s level.

I don’t say that to dismiss the Hawks. It’s remarkable that they are even in position to have their playoff mettle scrutinized. They still have work to do over their final 16 games. The Hawks entered the weekend closer to 11th than first in the East. The teams that finish 7-10 will participate in the play-in tournament for playoff spots.

But the Hawks have shown enough to conclude that they won’t collapse over the final month. It’s no reach to predict the Hawks will be a problem for any team except the East’s top three of Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Brooklyn. That’s a great development for the Hawks (30-26).

Remember, they didn’t win more than 29 games in any of the past three seasons. They were supposed to be better this season after adding good, veteran players. But I’d say they’ve beaten expectations given the circumstances. The Hawks have made hay against the softer part of their schedule, but so what? It’s hard to win in the NBA.

The Hawks have done it despite significant injuries. When general manager Travis Schlenk fired Lloyd Pierce despite the depleted roster, I opined that Schlenk was under pressure to show that he built a roster that’s good enough. He’s done that. Credit Schlenk for making good moves to improve the team’s depth.

Interim coach Nate McMillan has gotten more out of the Hawks since replacing Pierce on March 2 (the schedule’s pace makes it seem much longer ago). The Hawks have built chemistry on the fly because COVID-19 restrictions make that process harder. They’ve kept winning. Now I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll do in the playoffs.

It’s been four years since they made it. I miss big-time NBA basketball in these parts. Also, that 2016-17 Hawks team wasn’t as fun because players from the 2014-15 East finalist had started to scatter. This Hawks team figures to be competitive and exciting in the postseason.

Opponents will focus most of their attention on stopping Young, who makes the Hawks go. He’s adjusted to double teams by “bending” the defense and creating space for his teammates to attack. A consistent floater is the only missing piece from Young’s offensive game. It’s important that he find it before the playoffs, when shots at the rim aren’t easily available for players with limited size and athletic ability.

Hawks center Clint Capela is the defensive backbone. He’s the difference between the Hawks being OK and terrible at that end. Capela’s amazing second-jump quickness makes it hard for foes to keep him off the boards. Count the duo of Capela and power forward John Collins as potential advantages for the Hawks in the postseason.

Hawks playoff opponents will have a hard time slowing those three players while also controlling the rest of the roster. The Hawks have a solid collection of complementary players. There are enough of them to believe one or two will have big games in the playoffs to offset off nights from Young.

Danilo Gallinari, like Collins, is a floor-stretching big man. Tony Snell is a good shooter who’s having a career season with 3-point accuracy. Forward De’Andre Hunter was emerging as a good two-way player when he got hurt. Bogdan Bogdanovic got healthy and now is on a tear. Lou Williams has provided scoring punch off the bench since arriving via trade at the start of the month.

That’s eight quality players for McMillan to deploy in the playoffs. There’s also Solomon Hill, whose competent play saved the Hawks as the injuries piled up. There might also be Kris Dunn, who has yet to play for the Hawks because of injury. Getting him back would be a big boost for the Hawks because good wing defenders are especially valuable in the playoffs.

McMillan has options when his roster is healthy. He’s coached nine teams in the playoffs with three different franchises. Only one of those teams, the 2005 Sonics, made it out of the first round. But nearly all of McMillan’s series losses were against teams with legendary players: Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James.

The Hawks are 16-6 with McMillan as coach. They’ve held their own against the league’s good teams during that time: 5-5 vs. opponents 10th or better in their respective conferences as of Friday. The top teams gave the Hawks problems: 1-4 vs. opponents standing sixth or better in the East or West.

That suggests the Hawks are significantly better than the lottery-bound teams, about even with marginal playoff teams and a notch below the true contenders. The numbers at the end of the week signal the same. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Hawks ranked 10th in point differential, ninth in offensive efficiency and 19th in defensive efficiency (garbage time excluded).

Matchups make a big difference in the playoffs. The Bucks showed a formula for slowing the Hawks. They got physical with Young to prevent him from getting to his favored spots. His frustration showed when he forced things and turned the ball over, leading to Bucks fast breaks. But it will make a big difference for Young when the Hawks’ injured list isn’t so lengthy.

Those injuries are why too much shouldn’t be made of the Hawks losing to Milwaukee or other good teams during their surge. ManGamesLost.com tracks the number of injuries and the quality of players missing games. According to its April 13 update, the Grizzlies and Hawks lead the NBA in games missed by good players.

If the Hawks are healthy for the playoffs, they’ll be a tough out for whichever team they face.

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.

Bucks Progress Report: April 16

Brew Hoop 16 April, 2021 - 11:00am

Giannis Antetokounmpo: B+ (last week: A)

The Freak returned on Thursday night and looked physically capable of what we’re used to. Bud said after the game that he was on a minutes restriction at 25, and in those minutes he attacked the rim with his trademark power and athleticism as if he hadn’t missed multiple games with a lower-body injury. Good signs.

Jrue Holiday: A- (last week: A-)

His games against the also-rans in Minneapolis and Orlando weren’t banner nights, but he turned in a signature Holiday performance in Atlanta by putting up 23 and playing stifling defense on Hawks star Trae Young. It’s easy to dream about him putting the clamps on Kyrie Irving or James Harden in the playoffs, willing the Bucks to wins (speaking it into existence!)

Khris Middleton: B (last week: C)

It looked like Middleton was getting off the schneid before Thursday with efficient 20+ point efforts (the Magic and Wolves are always good slump busters), but he struggled in Atlanta to 10 points on 14 shots. He smartly backed off his volume since Holiday and Lopez were having big nights, likely with the 6/27 night in Dallas one week ago still fresh in his mind.

Brook Lopez: A (last week: A-)

Lopez feasted on defenses both inside and out this week (6/13 on threes) and is shooting a Splash Mountain-like 43% from deep this month. Surprisingly, his most muted performance came in Orlando, where he usually gets a boost from Mickey. His presence in the paint on Thursday also forced the Hawks into quite a few misses within 10 feet, mostly on floaters.

Donte DiVincenzo: C+ (last week: B-)

A quiet week for the Bucks’ fifth starter, who unfortunately couldn’t hit enough shots to really move up the pecking order while Giannis sat. He did grab 13 rebounds and was pretty error-free, but it’s disappointing that he wasn’t scoring with authority against bad teams.

Bobby Portis: A- (last week: A-)

Crazy Eyes scored double digits in all four games this week and had double-doubles in two of them. While he had a rough night versus the Hornets, he shook it off two days later in Orlando and kept the solid play up against the contending Hawks. This is Portis’ most productive stretch of the year in scoring and rebounding, averaging 13.7 and 10 this month.

P.J. Tucker: B+ (last week: INC)

From a mental perspective, Tucker didn’t look completely ready in his first game back on Wednesday, but he really showed what he could do in Atlanta. It’s no coincidence that the Hawks were routinely being shut down with him on the floor. You could see and sometimes hear how vocal he was in directing those bench groups that strung together several stops. He even switched onto Trae Young briefly. I hope to see him more with Giannis soon.

Jeff Teague: A- (last week: A)

You can look past unimpressive outings in Orlando and Minnesota once you see how well he played against actual playoff teams. He proved very capable in a spot start last Friday with 19 points on 11 shots and also received heavy minutes in Atlanta, spelling DiVincenzo. Teague has quickly ingratiated himself as a valuable member of the rotation who can get to the rim, draw fouls, make great passes, and hit a three every so often.

Pat Connaughton: B+ (last week: B-)

Connaughton broke out of his shooting slump this week, hitting 12 of his 25 three-point attempts. After a poor performance against the Hornets where he was a team-low -20, He’s scored double digits in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. He was great as usual on the boards and even scored a bit inside with some good-looking drives.

Bryn Forbes: A (last week: B)

This was a really productive week for Forbes, but not in the way you might expect. His outside shot was typically great until the Hawks game (when he looked like a somewhat willing passer) but he was an impressive 13/16 inside the arc on a variety of floaters, pullups, and stepbacks. He also had 5 assists, which doesn't sound like anything... until you see he hadn’t made one since March 27th. Nearly three weeks without an assist, sheesh!

Thanasis Antetokounmpo: C (last week: B+)

I know Friday was a throwaway game, but Thanasis is the type of player who shouldn’t be taking 15 shots unless he’s really on one. Then in Minnesota, he looked really out of control. He attempted a lot of ill-advised shots and made several head-scratching decisions with the ball. We’ll see how many minutes he gets with the frontcourt rotation now at full strength.

Rodions Kurucs: B (last week: INC)

In his first action as a Buck, Kurucs hit a few shots in garbage time against two of the league’s worst teams. Meh. It’s likely that the front office knows they don’t have much in him and due to his troubling past, he probably won’t have his salary guaranteed next season.

Jordan Nwora: A (last week: B)

Nwora the Scora (h/t oldresorter) was outstanding against Charlotte, particularly in the fourth quarter. He played all 12 minutes and the team scored 38. The youngest Buck shot solidly in reduced minutes the next two before returning to the end of the bench. Though he hasn’t shown much outside of scoring ability, he’s earned the right to rotation minutes when one of Giannis or Tucker sits to preserve their legs.

Sam Merrill: B (last week: INC)

He wasn’t efficient in the Hornets game, but few Bucks were in that slop fest. Great to see Merrill get 27 minutes in that one, though, facing actual quality NBA rotation players. I think that’s the last we’ll see of him in non-garbage time for a while.

Mamadi Diakite: B (last week: INC)

In a solid performance off the bench, Diakite scored 10 points to go with 5 boards in 23 minutes against the Hornets. It was very encouraging to see him get to the line (his first free throws as a Buck) for six attempts as few Bucks outside of Giannis are likely to draw shooting or blocking fouls. He didn’t do much in garbage time the next two contests.

Axel Toupane: A (last week: INC)

Milwaukee’s other two-way player got 18 minutes off the bench versus Charlotte and put together a nice stat line of 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He even hit a three and shot 4/5 at the line. Maybe there is an NBA player in there...

Mike Budenholzer: B (last week: C+)

Last week, I wrote about Bud’s half-court offense in the closing minutes of tight games. Though this isn’t a clutch situation, on Thursday the Hawks cut the deficit to as close as 8 points in the final three minutes as the Bucks’ offense stalled. With a disclaimer that Giannis’ night was done at this point, Milwaukee had a fair bit of trouble scoring. Five consecutive missed treys were thankfully mitigated by offensive rebounds on three of them, but those shots weren’t wide open or the result of great ball movement. As they should, the Bucks milked the clock on these possessions—unlike in last week’s Sacramento and Golden State matchups—and weren’t running Holiday or Middleton ISOs, but they just couldn’t create good scoring opportunities. There’s a real lack of movement in Bud’s late-game half-court sets too: a lot of standing around. While this didn’t harm the Bucks at all on Thursday, it’s reminiscent of playoff series the past two seasons where Milwaukee let fourth quarter leads slip away in large part because they couldn’t score.

Incomplete: N/A, every player received significant minutes in at least one game this week.

After the Grizzlies on Saturday, the Bucks will welcome some serious contenders this week as the Suns and Sixers make their first and only visits to Fiserv Forum. 3 wins is a tall order, but more importantly, this team is getting healthy with a month-long ramp into the playoffs ahead to sand the edges. What are your grades? Let us know in the comments below.

Hawks fall short in playoff-like test against Bucks

Peachtree Hoops 16 April, 2021 - 07:26am

A matchup between the three and four seeds in the East, one in which the Bucks prevailed against the shorthanded Hawks

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks with another extremely impressive and efficient performance, scoring 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field, 6-of-12 from three, as well as notching seven assists.

For the Bucks, Jrue Holiday led the Bucks with 23 points as seven Milwaukee players notched double-digit scoring.

Both teams welcomed back their respective stars, with Giannis Antetokounmpo returning after a six-game absence while Trae Young returned to action after missing the last two games. However, the Hawks were still without John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Danilo Gallinari, Cam Reddish and Kris Dunn.

Despite their injuries, this was a game the Hawks were always going to be tested in, as the Bucks represent a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference, as well as it being the 3-4 matchup in the East. The Hawks initially got off to a good start, but once the Bucks got going, they were the superior team.

The second quarter was key, one which the Bucks outscored the Hawks 31-23 — not a massive differential but the second half was largely even on the scoring front from both teams, making the second quarter a key one.

The first half was largely similar for both teams in terms of stats with the exception of rebounding (where the Bucks out-rebounded the Hawks 26-19) but the key aspects that separated the Bucks in the first half was their three-point shooting, shooting 11-of-23 from three in the first half compared to the Hawks’ 5-of-17.

Let’s look at those threes from the second quarter, where the Bucks found some of their separation.

Giannis didn’t look on top of his game, as you would expect after a decent layoff, but did hit this three-pointer in the second quarter:

Solomon Hill was tasked with guarding Giannis and he did as good of a job as you could ask, and you live with outside shots that the reigning MVP makes.

Something that separates the Bucks from other teams is their ball movement, obviously not a surprise under former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks were quick and snap with their passing, leading to opportunities such as this one, where Bryn Forbes’ extra pass finds Khris Middleton for three as the Hawks have only four players in-shot here defensively:

Again, Forbes is involved as he drives, stumbling before kicking the ball back to Holiday on the perimeter and his extra pass on the closeout from Kevin Huerter leads to a three-pointer for Brook Lopez:

Bogdanovic was perhaps a little late on his rotation here but this is what the Bucks do: they’re quick and snap and they punish teams accordingly.

This time, the ball-screen from Forbes for Holiday creates an issue for Young and Huerter, and Young can’t recover as Forbes receives the ball and hits the three-pointer:

Entering halftime trailing by 12 points, the Hawks were on the precarious edge where a quick Bucks start to the second half throws this game open, but it was the Hawks with an 8-0 run to begin the third quarter before eventually taking the lead in the third quarter. However, the Bucks made a decisive run towards the end of the third quarter, leaving the Hawks down 12 points to begin the fourth quarter — back where they started.

With the Bucks leading by two points with 3:20 remaining in the third, a nice one-two between Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis catches the Hawks out, and Connaughton hits the three-pointer:

Coming the other way, Young’s cross-court pass is easily read and intercepted by Portis, who is fouled in transition to prevent the certain layup, sending Portis to the line for two successful free throws:

Now trailing by seven points with under three minutes to go, Young gets a great look at a floater in the paint but shoots it long:

The Hawks get within five after a made basket by Onyeka Okongwu — who played well in his first quarter stint — but the Bucks immediately reply as Portis and Jeff Teague link up on the pick-and-roll, with Portis hitting the runner over Okongwu, who contested well to be fair to him but Portis restores the seven point lead:

The Hawks attempt to reply themselves and Okongwu creates separation for Young, who delivers a nice pass to Nathan Knight in the corner but cannot convert:

The Bucks continue to press their advantage as Teague finds himself on a switch with Okongwu and duly takes the rookie off of the dribble and gets inside the paint where his runner receives the fortuitous bounce off of the glass and rim to increase the Bucks’ lead to nine points with just under two minutes to go in the third, leading to a Hawks timeout:

McMillan inserted Huerter, Hill and Brandon Goodwin for Young, Bogdanovic and Knight out of the timeout, but their struggle to end the third quarter continued as Lou Williams’ shot is blocked by Antetokounmpo and the Bucks push in transition. From there, Connaughton finds P.J. Tucker in the corner for three as the Hawks gets drawn ball-side, pushing the Bucks’ lead to 12 points once again:

This was unfortunate for the Hawks, who had worked hard to erase that 12 point halftime lead to begin with, so to end the third quarter trailing by 12 points once again had to be disheartening.

It didn’t take long for the Bucks to extend this lead to 18 points in the fourth quarter, and while the Hawks made things semi-interesting, cutting the lead to eight points with 2:25 to go, the Bucks secured three offensive rebounds on the following possession as Lopez eventually tucks the ball away for the Bucks, restoring their double-digit lead with 1:39 remaining.

A turnover from Young followed by a three-pointer from Connaughton all but ended the game as the Hawks ultimately fell to an 11 point defeat.

Postgame, Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan keyed in on the effectiveness of the Bucks in punishing the Hawks’ turnovers.

“I really didn’t feel like we established ourselves at any point during this game,” said McMillan. “Defensively they averaged 30 points a quarter. First quarter 33 points, third quarter 30 points we gave up offensively. We didn’t do a good job getting back in transition. We had 11 turnovers and 21 points off of the 11 turnovers. Anytime we made a mistake, turned the ball over, they made us pay. They converted those turnovers into points. They pretty much had control of game the entire game.”

The Bucks were favored ahead of last night’s game and on the second night of a back-to-back having played in Minnesota on Wednesday afternoon. The game unfolded as you might have expected, and ultimately the Bucks’ class was too much for the shorthanded Hawks to deal with as the Hawks lost some ground in their playoff-seeding push, something they are, of course, monitoring.

“We lacked a little enthusiasm for this game today, the energy was a little bit off,” said Hill postgame. “We’ve done a good job of settling into how we want to play. We do want to be a more aggressive team defensively and tonight we ran into a team, they have championship ambitions. Giannis came back today and was able to get downhill and to his thing. This is our first time really understanding the moment, the implications that it has as a team. That’s the 3-4 matchup at the moment, we have Boston, they’re making a run right behind us, We just lacked it. Those guys are in the position they’re in because of how they play the game of basketball, defensively and offensively and they have their way tonight. They were consistent throughout the game and it led to the W.”

While a loss is a loss, the Hawks competed well against one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams despite their absences but a matchup like this also puts a finer scope on the mistakes the Hawks make in a game like this.

“We can learn a lot from this team, definitely,” added Bogdanovic postgame. “They’re a consistent playoff team and they know how to play winning basketball. We made a run in the second half and tried to keep up with them and one turnover, two turnovers, two bad defensive and offensive possessions and you look up at the scoreboard they’re somehow up 10, up 12. They’re tough.”

One of the areas of this game where the Bucks, arguably, won the game outright was the difference in the bench play. The Hawks are obviously missing multiple contributors but the Bucks outscored the Hawks 44-16 from the bench.

“It’s a good team, and we needed to be the aggressors in this team, we needed to be sharp defensively,” said McMillan. “They pose a challenge because of the matchups they can create on the floor, so you need to be connected defensively. Offensively you’ve got to take care of the ball, you’ve got to value every possession when you’re playing games like this. If you’re turning that ball over and they are converting those turnovers into points, it’s just going to put that much pressure on your defense and your offense to score and to win games. You have to value every possession. Their first and second unit, their second unit really just dominated our second unit, 44-16 scoring. We really didn’t have much production from our bench tonight.”

The starters for the Hawks played, for the most part, very well. Solomon Hill hit a season-high six threes on his way to a season-high 18 points, Huerter shot 7-of-11 from the field on his way to 16 points, Capela grabbed another double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds and obviously Bogdanovic led the scoring with 28 points.

Young scored 15 points but really struggled shooting ball, 3-of-17 from the field and 0-of-3 from behind the arc to go along with six turnovers. Young more than likely wasn’t 100% healthy after missing the last two games, but he got some good looks in the first half but his floaters just wouldn’t fall for him against Milwaukee.

Postgame, McMillan downplayed the notion that Young wasn’t 100% healthy, attributing his struggles more so due to a lack of rhythm having missed the last two games more so than an injury-hangover.

“He’s in uniform, he was on the floor,” said McMillan of Young. “We’re not going to put guys on the floor if they’re not ready to go. He was in uniform, he didn’t have a good shooting night, he had some turnovers tonight and that could be from the lack of rhythm, he hasn’t played in the last couple of games.”

A tough spot for the Hawks to lose the game by 11 points while Young shoots 3-of-17 but others did step up, like Hill and like Bogdanovic continues to do.

With the playoff race as tightly contested as it is and the Bucks, for now, settling comfortably into that third seed, this could end up being a potential matchup for the Hawks in the first round, something that the Hawks are aware of too.

“For sure, that’s even a situation where this could be the playoff potential, this could be a potential matchup in some form or fashion,” said Hill when asked if this game could be used as a measuring stick in the Eastern Conference. “The seeding options and situations are not done yet but another opportunity too to play on (national) TV, to show how hard we’ve worked and a situation to play at home. We need this games, I don’t care who we’re playing, we need these games. I think we’re two games from being eighth. It’s going to be a dogfight all the way through. Teams are hurt, so it’s no excuse. We just have to be better.”

This was a difficult spot on paper for the Hawks, but they competed and had they secured a defensive rebound in the spot where the Bucks snatched three offensive rebounds, it could have certainly been interesting. Alas, the Bucks not only won those three rebounds but the rebounding battle itself convincingly, 52-39, and the bench difference was key too — arguably the deciding factor.

Atlanta’s offense was not bad but as McMillan eluded to, the Bucks averaged 30 points across the four quarters and they could not slow the Bucks down at all, with the exception of one period in the fourth quarter where the Bucks scored two points in a five minute stretch but had the safety net of a 19 point lead (which I’m sure played a part too as the game was, realistically, over at that point).

While Giannis wasn’t 100% — he only scored 15 of the Bucks 120 points — the Bucks, ultimately, showed their overall class and depth.

The Hawks (30-26) are back in action on Sunday against the Indiana Pacers (26-28) in a matinee fixture, in need of a victory against a team in the midst of that Eastern Conference playoff/play-in picture.

Hawks are outperforming expectations, but there's still a lot of room to grow

The Athletic 16 April, 2021 - 06:14am

Hawks are outperforming expectations, but there’s still a lot of room to grow

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Sports Stories