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Bucks vs. Hawks Final Score: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton lead Bucks by Hawks in OT, 108-101

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With two veteran guards out, the Bucks were forced to go young Friday night against Atlanta. They succeeded.

The weird season of the weird Milwaukee Bucks continued Friday night with a weird game against the weird Atlanta Hawks.  And it was the weirdest Buck who carried the team to a weird win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (28 points, 16 rebounds) had himself a man's game for the short-handed Bucks, leading them to a 108-101 overtime victory over the Hawks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

To the surprise of no one, defense lacked early for the home side.  The Bucks routinely lost open shooters, something one cannot afford to do against a team like Atlanta that loves to swing the ball around.  Atlanta shot 50% from the field, four-for-five from deep, and led 28-22 after one.  The Bucks found their success in the paint, and went on a 7-0 run to even the game at 20 late in the first, only to see the Hawks finish out the frame on an 8-2 run.

Much of the same in the second quarter, including the disheartening trend of losing shooters on simple pick-and-rolls.  Milwaukee continued to live inside the arc and in transition, allowing the Bucks to hang around, although that was easier said than done.  The Bucks needed ten offensive rebounds to make up for missing some gimmes, as they made just 13/32 in the paint.

Just before halftime, official Marc Davis made a head-scratching foul call on Paul Millsap as Giannis Antetokounmpo fired a half-court heave at the buzzer and contacted Millsap. Despite Giannis initiating the contact, Davis whistled Millsap and sent Giannis to the line for three.  He made two, Millsap's foul trouble began, and the Hawks led 51-46 at halftime.

The Bucks came out running to start the third and whittled down the lead. Finally, after 32 minutes, John Henson's fall away bank shot (with his right hand!) gave the Bucks their first lead of the game at 66-65. Just over one minute later, Michael Carter-Williams drained a three, the first of the night for Milwaukee and just the second in the last two games for the club. After that, Dennis Schroder calmed things down for Atlanta, helping the Hawks close on an 11-4 run and take a 76-73 lead into the fourth.

With 5:54 to play, Giannis grabbed a rebound and drove down the lane for a right-handed layup to tie the game at 85.  The two teams each faced foul trouble with Millsap, Kent Bazemoreand Carter-Williams racking up their fifth fouls.  Hawks coach Mike Budenholzereven elected to play a little ‘Hack-A-Henson' with three-and-a-half minutes to play. But after Henson made one of two throws, Khris Middletonstole a Dennis Schroder pass and tied the game at 91 with a transition dunk.

While the game would ultimately need overtime to decide a winner, the turning point might have come with the game tied at 93 and 1:17 remaining. After Teague missed a good look at a three, Giannis went high for a rebound in traffic and Millsap fouled out after knocking Giannis to the ground, sending Atlanta's best player to the bench for the remainder of the night. Antetokounmpo made both free throws to give Milwaukee a 95-93 lead, though Al Horford, who was quiet all night, connected from the high post to even the game up once again.

On the next possession, Carter-Williams attempted an ill-conceived behind-the-back pass to Middleton at the top of the key that Middleton wasn't expected. Kyle Korver jumped on the basketball and called timeout, though Korver would then miss long on a wide-open three from the left wing, giving the Bucks another chance for the lead in the closing minute.

With Middleton draining the clock down, he found Carter-Williams on the wing who drove the lane and lost the basketball, only for it to kick off of Horford and give the Bucks 1.8 seconds on the shot clock to draw up a play.  Antetokounmpo's inbounds pass hit off the fingertips of Middleton and out of bounds, but Teague's driving attempt was walled off by MCW, and we went to overtime tied 95-95.

The first minute of overtime was eventful for Kent Bazemore, who airmailed a three on the first possession and fouled out on the first defensive set of the extra session.  Carter-Williams, who was sitting with five fouls in the closing stages of the game, calmly drained another triple to give the Bucks a 100-99 lead halfway through overtime, marking just the third time all season MCW has hit multiple three pointers in a game.

One possession after he was double-teamed and traveled, Khris Middleton found Henson to break out of another double team, who then found a wide-open Giannis for a baseline jam and a 103-99 lead with 1:35 to play. Cheering from the bench, Greg Monroe jumped about as high as Greg Monroe can jump in celebration:

After the Hawks turned it over, Giannis... *takes deep breath*... hit a three from the left corner to salt the game away.  Be still, my heart.  Giannis finished with 28 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and three blocks.

The Bucks move to 2-0 in overtime this season, having knocked off Cleveland at home earlier this year, but this one felt a little different than that exhilarating win over the Cavs. With O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless out, this game was the young kids' show, and for the most part, everyone contributed. Khris Middleton had 26 to lead the way and was the only guy in white who could be relied on to hit a jumper. While his six turnovers were painful, MCW managed 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, Jabari Parker struggled with his finishing but had ten and ten. Greg Monroe, who was conspicuously absent in overtime, finished with 15 points and 12 boards. John Henson had six blocks, including a monster swat in OT following the Giannis three, to go along with his ten points.

Atlanta was led by Millsap and his 23 points and ten rebounds.  Horford with 18, Korver with 17, and Schroder had 16.

Little time to enjoy this one with a game in Charlotte on Saturday.  Their last trip to Charlotte featured one of the worst offensive performances the team has had this season.  Maybe this entertaining showing tonight can spark them tomorrow against the Hornets.

- Corey Gloor

Observations

  • The Bucks won the game on the boards and at the foul line, outrebounding the Hawks 60-37 (including 21 offensive) while shooting 31 more free throws. They didn't do particularly well when they got there (just 25/37), but conceding just six free throw attempts more than made up for it.
  • Jabari and Giannis both struggled with their finishing early, but Giannis eventually got things going with 20 of his 28 points after halftime. His 16 rebounds were also a season-high and the fourth straight game he's managed double-digit rebounds. Also of note: Giannis' first four games scoring 27+ points were all losses. His last two have been wins -- and came in the last four days.
  • It's been a pretty good week for Giannis, eh? Just as remarkable is how he's doing it. Of his 43 shots over the last three games, just five have come outside the immediate basket area -- two of them halfcourt heaves at the end of quarters. He's also taken an eye-popping 32 free throws in that time.
  • Middleton scoring 26 points has become a ho-hum thing at this point, but he admitted that Atlanta's swarming defense caught the Bucks off-guard. Fortunately the Bucks he was a quick learner.
  • With O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless hurt, the Bucks have predictably struggled from deep even more than usual, though they got some unexpected help tonight. Coming off a 1/9 night in Washington, the Bucks started 0/7 before MCW hit a three late in the third. One more from MCW and Giannis' dagger gave them three on the night, though they've still hit just 10/44 over the last four games. So much for modern basketball, eh?
  • Rashad Vaughn played 12 minutes...and that's about it. Amazingly, Vaughn didn't record a single number in the box score, a feat known as a trillion for the number of zeroes in the box. And in Vaughn's case it appears to be a rather uncommon trillion:

- Frank Madden