USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee shook off some horrible early shooting to make a late rally in Atlanta but couldn't quite close the gap, falling in the first of three crucial games against the Hawks.
Jeff Teague had 27 points and 11 assists, one of three Atlanta players to record a double-double, and the Hawks held off a late push by the Milwaukee Bucks to claim a 98-90 victory on their home court. The loss drops Milwaukee 3.5 games behind the Hawks, who currently hold the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and 2 full games behind the 7th-seeded Boston Celtics.
Al Horford had 26 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks, while Josh Smith scored 12 points, grabbed 16 boards, and handed out 6 assists. The Hawks got only 9 points from their bench but made up for it with very efficient scoring from the starting unit.
Milwaukee was led by 21 points from Brandon Jennings, who also had 5 assists, along with a highly-efficient 18 points from J.J. Redick on 6-10 shooting from the field. Redick also led Milwaukee with 6 assists. Larry Sanders scored 19 but needed a career-high 19 shot attempts to get there. Sanders did pull down 14 rebounds and block 4 shots (climbing up the Bucks' shot-blocking leaderboard in the process). The starting lineup shot very poorly overall, with Monta Ellis (2-14 FG, 5 pts) and Samuel Dalembert (1-7, 2 pts, 7 rebs) the chief culprits.
The Bucks shot just 25% in the first quarter but managed to play Atlanta to a draw after 12 minutes thanks to solid work on the offensive glass and a few Hawk turnovers. But while the Hawks rebounded with 63% shooting in the 2nd quarter, the Bucks remained down at 42%, yielding a 5-point lead for Atlanta at the half. The Hawks looked prepared to run away with things for much of the second half, but Milwaukee charged back in the fourth and trailed by only 4 with roughly a minute left (Jennings missed a free-throw that could've made it a 3-point game). The Hawks turned it over on their next possession, but the Bucks traded two missed jumpers from Jennings for free throws from the Hawks to finalize the outcome.
Milwaukee gets a much-needed day of rest tomorrow before heading to Indiana to face the Pacers Friday night at 6:00pm CST.