The Bucks have had their share of late-game meltdowns this season, but they may have outdone themselves on Sunday.
Monta Ellis' 11 points in less than two minutes gave the Bucks a 97-92 lead with just 2:45 remaining, but five Milwaukee turnovers, some horrendous Bucks' shot selection, and clinical execution from the Hawks saw Larry Drew's club run riot with a 12-2 finish that dealt Milwaukee another critical blow as it attempts to move out of the East's eight seed. The Bucks struggled to contain Atlanta's frontcourt of Josh Smith (23 points, 9/17 fg, 10 rebs, 4 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk) and Al Horford (24 pts, 10/16 fg, 7 reb, 6 ast, 2 blk), though the Bucks also got double-doubles from Larry Sanders (15 pts, 12 rebs, 3 blk) and Ersan Ilyasova (19 pts, 10 rebs) in addition to 20 points on 15 shots from Ellis.
Atlanta rode Devin Harris' hot-shooting first half (13 pts, 3/5 threes) to lead by as many as seven in the second quarter, but Brandon Jennings (13 ast, 12 pts, 4/15 fg, 3 stl, 3 to) spearheaded a 6-0 burst to narrow Atlanta's lead to 50-49 at half. Ellis lost Harris a number of times to set up open looks, but the Bucks kept Atlanta off the offensive boards and Jeff Teague was off to start the game, hitting just 1/6 with five turnovers in the first half. The Bucks shot 52% in the opening two quarters but missed all five of their three point attempts, instead relying on red-hot shooting from mid-range (15/26 fg to start) to hang tight.
The teams went into the fourth dead-locked at 74, before Ellis' jump-shooting explosion--his second in as many Sundays--seemed to put the Bucks in control inside of three minutes. But from there it was all Hawks. Ellis and Jennings carelessly turned it over while Ilyasova and Sanders could only split a pair of trips to the foul line, as the Bucks looked completely out of sorts and could barely run a play without stumbling all over themselves. The opposite was true for Atlanta, which methodically worked through Teague, Smith and Horford to finish at the rim.
Despite their best (worst?) efforts, the Bucks had the ball with 27 seconds left and the game tied, only to see Ellis and Redick misconnect on a simple perimeter pass that Redick should have been ready for (Ellis was credited with the turnover). Redick was then whistled for a foul crashing into Dahntay Jones in the subsequent transition action, and Redick then compounded his earlier mistake by failing to put a body on Anthony Tolliver after Jones split the two free throws. Tolliver grabbed Jones' miss and called a timeout with 21 seconds left and the Hawks now leading 100-99, forcing the Bucks to foul on the subsequent inbounds.
Why Redick was left to be boxing out the much larger Tolliver is a question Jim Boylan will have to answer, and it's anyone's guess why Ilyasova (playing with five fouls) was even in the game when Atlanta inbounded on the next play. You know you need to foul, so why leave one of your best shooters on the court with five personals? Naturally it was Ilyasova who was left to foul Horford on the inbound, sending Ersan to the bench as Horford drilled both free throws to make it 102-99.
The Bucks still had plenty of time to go for quick twos and foul, but Ellis capped off a baffling finish from the Bucks by hoisting a desperate off-balance three with 11 seconds remaining. Dunleavy grabbed the board and appeared to be fouled while trying to reset the offense, but was instead whistled for (what else?) a turnover that sealed it for the Hawks.