A horrific shooting start to this game helped the Bucks stake a 26-17 advantage after one period. The Hawks found their footing in the second, but Milwaukee used a late quarter run to snag a 62-50 lead by halftime. Atlanta found its stroke as the Bucks went a tad cold, letting the Hawks stay in it at 88-83 entering the fourth. A poor final period all around, including letting the Hawks hit triples and damage them inside, provided the final nail in the coffin for a Bucks team that has now lost four of five.
It was fitting Milwaukee’s first points came on a second chance and in transition, but they couldn’t keep it going. They used an overwhelming advantage on the boards and running out to take down Atlanta in last year’s playoffs, and it turns out that formula still works pretty darn well. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep it up for the duration of this game, and even were outrebounded on the offensive glass handily, 29.2% to 19.6% by the Hawks. Eventually, Atlanta even had more points off turnovers (19) than the Bucks did (15). Milwaukee found a winning formula against the Hawks last year, but couldn’t execute it to the same degree while the Hawks looked like the more poised team down the stretch. It felt reminiscent of Game One of last year’s ECF.
Can Khris Middleton put his defender in an Atlanta jersey every night? He’s had his fair share of struggles when asked to serve as a primary playmaker in Jrue’s absence, but he looked plenty comfortable finding his own shot against the Hawks. Whether it was spot-ups, shaking his defender off the dribble or using his mid-post game, Middleton was stroking it like it was Games 5/6 of the ECF. That being said eight turnovers is absolutely pushing the limits, even with increased reliance upon him as a creator. He needs to find a way to be more sound with the ball and make quicker decisions when other teams send extra defenders his way. He finished with 34 points, seven boards, four assists and eight turnovers.
34 points in 35 minutes tonight for Khris.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 18, 2022
34 PTS | 7 REB | 4 AST | 2 BLK pic.twitter.com/0PEJfqLYkJ
My worry level is still zero. Yes, this team seems intent on losing in just about every maddening way possible of late, be it to the Pistons, against the plucky Raptors or letting the Hawks score 71 on them in the second half. My main takeaways from this game were that Pat Connaughton looked the most like himself that he has in some time, and Giannis and Khris are still struggling some when asked to be primary playmakers without any other assistance, but these are valuable reps with defenses keying in on them. On the positive side, Giannis was a stellar deterrent at the rim and Middleton did find more of his usual shooting stroke though as the game wore on. I completely understand frustration on a night-to-night basis, but big picture, nothing consequential for me besides the fact they slip a bit in the standings (but remain two games out of first).
Bonus Bucks Bits
Giannis Antetokounmpo again piled up stats (27 points, six boards and six assists), but he also settled quite a bit for long jumpers and had five turnovers. I like him working out his repertoire in the regular season, but it definitely can grow frustrating when the shots don’t fall.
We all saw the Bucks find defensive stability in last year’s Hawks series when they went to an all-switching tactic. They opted for their more traditional hard hedge and fight around screens this time around, continuing what they’ve done all season. They started switching later on in the first once Trae was off the floor before mixing their coverages as the game wore on.
In the first, Giannis ran out after a Hawks three and was stopped at the rim after a long pass from Middleton. I’m not sure that happened at all in last year’s series.
That leakout by Giannis might be the Hawks' best transition defensive play of the season (albeit the high point of a low bar).— Kevin Chouinard (@KLChouinard) January 17, 2022
Collins and Hunter got an attentive double to seal him off quickly.
Bud opted to move Wes Matthews out of the starting lineup in favor of George Hill for this one.
The overhead opposite corner one-handed hook pass is starting to become a trademark for Giannis. He hit Donte with a sweet one from left to right corner in the second.
There was a great sequence in the third where Giannis set up on the right side above the arc, and as he drove Okongwu picked his pocket. A few possessions later down the floor, Giannis revisited that exact same spot, same matchup, and maintained control as he drove towards the free throw line. With his head up, the second Deandre Hunter foolishly helped off Khris Middleton, Giannis dished it to him for a three point splash.
I love unselfish play as much as the next guy, but uh, I’m pretty okay with Khris taking a fairly open look from three rather than dishing to Donte in the corner as he did in the third. (FWIW, the Brew Hoop DM all made this same comment LOL)
You may remember a few really slick alley-oops from Khris to Giannis in the Warriors game. They had a chance at another here in the pivotal fourth quarter, but Middleton just threw a poor ball.