A year ago, Larry Drew's Atlanta Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks four times in as many games.
This year? Drew is now in Milwaukee, but there's no reason to think the result won't be the same.
Even with Al Horford out for the season and Jeff Teague not traveling with the team, the Hawks are what they usually are: good enough on both ends, capable of blitzing you with threes and well-coached enough to fight through injuries to key players. The Milwaukee Bucks are none of these things, and it showed once again Saturday night in Atlanta's 112-87 embarrassment of the Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Atlanta shot a scorching 53% from the field and 50% from deep (13/26), outscoring the Bucks 24-14 in transition and 26-12 off turnovers. Six Hawks hit double figures, led by Paul Millsap's 20 points (8/14 fg), eight rebounds and four assists.
The Bucks kept it close for a quarter, staying within striking distance of a hot-shooting Hawks team thanks to a quick start from Brandon Knight (10 pts, 4 ast). But the Bucks' inability to contain Atlanta's penetration left them collapsing and conceding open threes at every turn (8/15 threes in the first half), which combined with Milwaukee's own wastefulness (13 turnovers) helped Atlanta reel off a 9-2 run to close the second quarter and claim a commanding 60-45 halftime edge.
And from there on out the Bucks more or less rolled over. Paul Millsap took it to Ersan Ilyasova with nine points in the first 3:15 of the third and in no time the Hawks' lead had ballooned to 25 and would rise to as many as 33 on two occasions. It's the latest in a long line of preseason-ish performances from the Bucks: undisciplined, erratic and marred by lapses in both focus and effort. It's no secret that the current season is a lost one, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable for the Bucks' effort to go in the tank with it.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (5 pts, 2/6 fg, 1/2 ft, 1 reb, 1 ast, 1 blk, 4 to) was nearly a scratch with back spasms, and it showed for most of the night. Giannis hit a tough, floating baseline jumper off a speed handoff in the first, but picked up quick two fouls shortly thereafter and was replaced by Khris Middleton to start the third as well. He was listed as questionable to return, but popped off the bench shortly thereafter and played the final 18 minutes.
His garbage time performance featured a pair of highlights: a chasedown swat on fellow rookie Dennis Schröder and a ferocious coast-to-cast two-handed slam over Gustavo Ayon in the fourth (don't worry, we'll post that one soon). Still, he didn't look quite right and wasn't particularly close on a pair of missed threes.
- Drew mercifully gave up on the "jumbo" lineup featuring Ilyasova at small forward, instead going back to the Knight/Ridnour/Giannis/Ilyasova/Sanders lineup that lost nine straight games before Wednesday. Hint: I'm not a fan of continually starting Ridnour, though thankfully he only played 15 minutes tonight. Early garbage time meant a third quarter (!) appearance from Nate Wolters, who scored eight points (3/5 fg) and added five assists in just 16 minutes.
- To his credit, Ilyasova worked the boards hard and had a double-double by halftime (11 pts, 13 rebs), but once again struggled with his shot (5/15 fg, 0/3 threes) and went to the bench for good after Millsap and the Hawks blew it open early in the third.
- Knight hit a season-best five threes on his way to 27 points on just 15 shots, but he had just one assist after the first quarter while turning it over four times.
- With Ekpe Udoh (ankle) out for the foreseeable future, Larry Sanders was back in the starting five and...yeah, it wasn't good. Bucks castoff Gustavo Ayon (4/5 fg, 8 pts, 4 rebs) outplayed Sanders (0/5 fg, 1/2 ft, 4 reb, 0 blk in 21 minutes), though John Henson came off the bench to put in a far more respectable effort (10 pts, 5/8 fg, 10 rebs, 2 blk in 28 minutes).