A new night, a new way to lose.
Having already lost to Atlanta three times in as many tries this season, the Bucks were never going to be favored on the road with Larry Sanders (back) and Brandon Jennings (sore Achilles) watching from the sidelines. But Atlanta's sloppiness and a barrage of Bucks threes provided Milwaukee a surprising 19-point lead, largely thanks to big nights from Ersan Ilyasova (25 points, 9/15 fg, 7 rebs) and point guard-in-residence Monta Ellis (17 assists, 27 points on 23 shots, 5 steals). Starting in place of Sanders, John Henson had his ups and downs in 26 minutes of action (8 pts, 3/8 fg, 8 reb, 3 stl, 2 blk) while Ish Smith pleasantly surprised with 10 points and 3 assists in 22 minutes.
And then reality set in, with poor Milwaukee passing and a complete lack of transition defense (33 fast break points!) fueling a gradual Hawks comeback capped by a 34-22 fourth quarter. Jeff Teague was once again a consistent thorn in Milwaukee's side (24 points, 10 ast), Josh Smith was a load on the block with 24 on 17 shots, and Al Horford recovered from a slow start to post 18 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. Milwaukee was largely helpless inside in the second half, hemorrhaging fast breaks and unable to contain Smith and Horford around the hoop as Atlanta rolled up a 62-30 paint scoring advantage.
A new starting unit featuring J.J. Redick and Henson struggled out of the gate, but Milwaukee eventually rode an avalanche of Atlanta turnovers (15 in the half!) and Ersan Ilyasova threes (5/6 from deep, 22 points in the first half) to take a 54-40 halftime lead that ballooned to 59-40 following a Redick three and Henson tip-in to open the third.
But what seemed too good to be true indeed was. The Hawks immediately responded by ripping off 12 straight points, with a pair of bad Ellis turnovers keying five quick fast break points and even Mike Dunleavy making a series of bad passes (hence his 5 turnovers). Once again the Bucks just didn't look accustomed to playing with a lead, and their defense was all the more porous down low with Sanders out of the equation. Any time the Hawks drove, easy buckets seemed to follow--a trend we've gotten rather used to over the past couple months.
The Bucks get a chance to salvage their 0-3 road trip against the hapless Bobcats Saturday night, but down three games on the Celtics with three games left, the remainder of the regular season is fairly academic at this point.