The state of Wisconsin's basketball attentions understandably weren't focused on Atlanta Friday night, and as far as theMilwaukee Bucks are concerned that was probably for the best. Losers of three straight entering the night, the Bucks made it four in a row with another competitive-but-uninspiring effort against the surging Hawks, who themselves weren't at their best for the majority of their 101-90 win at Philips Arena.
Despite shooting a miserable 5/32 from three -- many of them wide open -- the Hawks ultimately beat the Bucks at their own game, outscoring them 58-42 in the paint thanks in no small part to 17 offensive rebounds. John Henson did his part to keep the Bucks in it with an active 17-point, 10-rebound, three-block double-double in 26 minutes, while Jabari Parker started quickly before fading fast on a not-so-efficient 19-point, eight-rebound night. But the Hawks otherwise frustrated the Bucks for long stretches, containing Giannis Antetokounmpo (11 points on 14 shots, 7 rebs, 4 ast) and Khris Middleton (10 points on 14 shots) while using Paul Millsap (14 points, 13 rebs) and Al Horford (14 points, 8 rebs) as battering rams inside for much of the night.
The Bucks were fortunate the Hawks didn't punish them more consistently from beyond the arc, especially coming off a game on Wednesday in which the Hawks buried 17 threes. Unfortunately, they didn't need the longball on a night when the Bucks were often a step slow picking up stray cutters and guys leaking out in transition; Atlanta blitzed the Bucks 22-14 on the break, with the starting five often looking particularly unresponsive to the Bucks' ball movement. Related: it's still awfully difficult to see the Bucks ever defending at a high level with Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker sharing the court.
With their winless three-game road trip behind them, the Bucks fly home tonight before facing the Hornets Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
- Parker started quickly, hitting three early jumpers en route to 10 points in the first six minutes. But he made just 3/12 the rest of the way, forcing some tough midrangers and missing half of his six free throws. Still, there were some definite positives in Parker's aggression offensively: even with Atlanta's second-ranked defense walling off the paint effectively for most of the night, he found ways to get his buckets and was more active on the boards than we've seen in a week or two. Watching him tear away a first quarter board from Millsap might have been the most enjoyable rebound we've seen in a while.
- Kent Bazemore did a nice job making Giannis work with the ball, though the beauty of the Hawks' overloading defense is that it consistently manages to roll extra bodies at drivers. Interestingly, Giannis only had two field goals in the paint tonight -- a first quarter dunk off a broken play and a nice give-and-go with Jabari in the fourth -- and otherwise relied on his jumper to get him going in the middle two quarters. Unfortunately the Hawks did a nice job hurrying him on a slew of in-between looks, in the process limiting him to just 5/14 from the field.
- Kidd tried Henson in different lineups tonight (rejoice!), starting him off as usual with Miles Plumlee but also giving him minutes with Monroe and playing him at center down the stretch with Bayless, Middleton, Parker and Antetokounmpo -- a group that had amazingly played just five minutes together all season.
- As is usually the case, the secret to Henson's success was activity and movement. He collected half of the Bucks' 16 offensive rebounds tonight, providing critical oxygen to an offense that struggled to 42% shooting while making just 3/13 from deep. Moreover, while Plumlee has to be catching and going up in the restricted area to be effective, Henson is showing he's capable of rolling, catching 10-15 feet out and putting it on the deck for a dribble before swooping for a finish with his preferred left hand. Considering the way it crushes the Bucks spacing, the Plumlee/Henson lineup almost demands Henson force the defense to react by pick-and-rolling on almost every possession.