The Hawks came into Sunday afternoon’s contest versus the Milwaukee Bucks on a five-game losing streak. The streak has now grown to six games after falling to the Bucks 117-106 at Phillips Arena.
The Bucks — coached by former all-star point guard and Olympic gold medalist Jason Kidd — are considered one of the up-and-coming teams in the league and the Hawks, well, they are a work in progress.
Atlanta used a 33-25 fourth-quarter scoring advantage to get as close as they could to Milwaukee but the 12-point first quarter deficit ultimately was their undoing. The Bucks jumped out to a 12-2 lead to begin the game and quickly extended the lead to 15 points at 26-11 with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter.
Most of the damage came from Bucks reserve guard Rashad Vaughn, who connected on consecutive three-pointers late in the quarter and all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished the period with 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists.
Antetokounmpo, who has quickly gone from a lottery project to one of the top players in the league and an early favorite for MVP, displayed all of his gifts on this night, scoring 33 points to go along with 12 rebounds and five assists. The only thing he didn’t do was block a shot, as the Bucks only had three as a team during the game, all by forward John Henson (12 points, eight rebounds).
Vaughn would make two more three-pointers in the second quarter (4-6 from deep in the first half) to put Milwaukee ahead 43-23 early in the second quarter. Hawks forward Taurean Prince scored 15 first-half points on 6-13 shooting.
Rookie John Collins contributed 10 points as well but the focus on keeping up with the Bucks on offense might have helped to distract the Hawks from their rebounding duties. Milwaukee outrebounded Atlanta 25-16 during the first half and 43-21 for the game.
The Bucks were ahead 61-43 at the half and looked to be on their way to an easy Sunday afternoon. Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder made half of his six shots during the first half and came half of his shots for the game, finishing with 21 points on 16 shots.
Bucks forward Khris Middleton saved his best basketball for the second half scoring 21 second-half points and answering every offensive question that Antetokounmpo didn’t. Middleton’s nine assists (to two turnovers) and seven rebounds came in handy as the Bucks were without starting center Greg Monroe who missed the game with left calf soreness and according to Kidd wasn’t expected back for a few weeks.
Despite outscoring the Bucks during the fourth — Marco Belinelli connected on two timely three-pointers during a pair of Hawks mini-rallies — the Bucks stars kept finding ways to get to the basket and to the free throw line whenever the team needed points.
Middleton was 6 for 6, Antetokounmpo 4 for 6 and guard Malcolm Brogdon, last season’s rookie of the year, was 4 for 4. The Hawks found a way to not only get more free throw attempts (26 compared to Milwaukee’s 21) but made a higher percentage (80 percent with Kent Bazemore making all 10 of his attempts).
The Hawks were unable to pull any closer than seven points with Antetokounmpo scoring on consecutive possessions followed by a Middleton three-pointer with four minutes remaining that put Milwaukee ahead 107-90.
Atlanta will travel to Philadelphia to play the 76ers on Wednesday before returning to Philips Arena to host the Houston Rockets on Friday night when the franchise will hold a ceremonial jersey retirement for City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
• The Hawks got balanced scoring on Sunday. Five players score more than 10 points with eight in total scoring seven or more points in the loss to the Bucks.
• There were no Hawks with double figures in rebounding. Collins led the team with seven.
• Isaiah Taylor scored a season-high seven points in 16 minutes of play. Taylor played more than double the time at reserve point guard than Malcolm Delaney (7 minutes, 0-2 from the field, 0 points)
• In a post-game interview, Atlanta native Malcolm Brogdon said of the Hawks, “We know we’re a better team but at the same time we have to respect them.”