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Bucks vs. Hawks Final Score: Dwight-less Hawks hold on in Atlanta, 107-100

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

How you feel about the Bucks’ 107-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night is largely a matter of perspective. On the plus side: Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists) and Jabari Parker (23 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals) helped the Bucks nearly erase a 24-point deficit against one of the league’s best teams.

Alternatively: the Bucks’ blew a winnable game against a good team missing arguably its best player and on the second night of a back-to-back. Calibrate your levels of optimism and self-loathing appropriately and choose whichever interpretation you prefer. Our podcast recap:

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Though they closed to within four points in the fourth quarter, the Bucks ultimately lost the game in the second — when Atlanta catapulted past them thanks to an 18-0 run that staked the home club to a 52-35 halftime lead. With Dwight Howard resting following a quad contusion last night in Miami, Mike Budenholzer’s club relied on its depth throughout: Paul Millsap was steady (8/11, 21 points), Mike Muscala filled in effectively for Howard (15 points on 10 shots) and Tim Hardaway (14 points on 4/7 fg) helped fuel a bench-led 31-9 shellacking in the second quarter. Howard’s absence was especially obvious in the paint, where the Bucks outscored Atlanta 50-28 and grabbed 12 more offensive rebounds.

Things didn’t look much better early in the third, but Parker and Antetokounmpo eventually helped the Bucks get things going. After a cold first half, Parker got hot from midrange in the third, scoring 15 points with just one miss. But the Bucks’ defense didn’t do them many favors: despite matching their 35-point first half scoring output in the third quarter alone, the Bucks also surrendered 32 points as Atlanta maintained a 14-point edge going into the fourth.

And then things got a bit interesting. Playing in a small lineup with Giannis and Jabari, Mirza Teletovic (14 points, 4/9 threes) buried two quick threes to start the period, and the Bucks whittled Atlanta’s lead down to three midway through the fourth — only for the Hawks to respond with big shots at every turn. Giannis spent much of the night creating from the high postNotably, Kyle Korver hit a pair of back-breaking threes after going scoreless in the first half, and the Bucks’ own shooting went cold in the waning minutes.

Next up: a trip to Miami tonight for a matchup with the struggling Heat tomorrow.

Thoughts

  • Via NBAWowy.com, the combination of Giannis, Jabari and Mirza had played 82 minutes together this season —but just one minute without a true center on the court. That’s probably not too surprising given Jason Kidd’s long-held preference for playing one big man (and the Bucks overabundance of them), but going small against the Howard-less Hawks was ultimately crucial in the second half, as Teletovic’s floor-stretching ability led to both quick threes and created room for the young guns to operate. One more reason to trade a big man...
  • After barely playing in the Bucks previous two games, Teletovic subbed in early for Jabari Parker and made his presence felt throughout the night with his shooting. Nice to see -- but will Jason Kidd continue to give him consistent run?
  • Greg Monroe played just seven minutes on a night when you would have expected to him to feast against the Howard-less Hawks. The main reason: he was part of a defenseless second unit that allowed Atlanta to go on its big run at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second, and Kidd basically forgot about him thereafter. I’m guessing we see much more of him against the Heat.
  • Speaking of shooting, the Bucks hit just 2-of-18 threes in the first half before connecting on 6-of-14 in the second half. Take shots to make shots, eh?
  • Parker missed an early three and was again frustrated by a lack of calls driving to the hoop, but he warmed himself up from midrange in the third quarter. As for Giannis...who needs range when you’re Giannis?
  • Many of us wondered why Jason Terry saw early minutes for the second straight game, especially given Rashad Vaughn has shot the ball shockingly well thus far this season. Alas, neither guy offered anything tonight: Terry missed both of his shots in nine minutes, while Vaughn missed all six of his shots in 14 minutes. On the plus side, Tony Snell got better as the night went on and finished with 11 points on 10 shots to go with four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
  • Befitting of the Hawks, this game ended up playing at a fast pace (99.3), though the Bucks outscored Atlanta 17-11 in transition.