The Atlanta Hawks used a big second half comeback to erase a 19 point deficit and sweep the season series from the Milwaukee Bucks with a 109-104 win. The Hawks win their second straight game and move back into fifth place in the Eastern Conference with just two games left to play.
Slow starts, particularly defensively, have hampered the Hawks of late and Friday night's game was no different. Turnovers on the offensive end and a lack of perimeter defense helped the Bucks build a 54-40 halftime lead. Milwaukee wasn't exactly shooting the lights out as they hit only 43 percent of their shots in the first half but they went a sizzling 11-18 from three-point range. Many of those were set up off of dribble penetration where slow or non existent defensive rotations from Atlanta left shooters wide open.
The second half started in much the same way as the first ended. The Bucks extended their lead to 19 with four straight points prompting a quick time out from Larry Drew just 58 seconds into the quarter. Whatever Drew said seemed to work as the Hawks responded with a run and outscored Milwaukee 35-28 in the quarter to get to within seven at 82-75.
The Hawks kept the pressure on in the fourth as Devin Harris continued a second half onslaught. After going scoreless in the first half, Harris came alive after the break scoring all 19 of his points and seemed to energize the rest of the team by pushing the ball out in transition. A Harris three cut the Milwaukee lead to two at 92-90 with 7:35 remaining. Two minutes later Jeff Teague tied the game with a drive right through the middle of the Milwaukee defense. Atlanta took the lead a few moments later when Al Horford finished off a lob from Teague on the break and the Hawks would never trail again.
For Atlanta the usual suspects came up big especially in the second half. Josh Smith and Jeff Teague scored 24 points while Teague handed out a team-high 10 assists. Harris' 19 came on 5-19 shooting including an 0-7 start. Al Horford added 18 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. Ivan Johnson chipped in nine points off the Atlanta bench.
Atlanta moves a half game in front of Chicago and into fifth place in the East's playoff picture. The Hawks will enjoy three straight off days before finishing the season with a back-to-back starting Tuesday against Toronto at Philips Arena. The Bulls hold the head-to-head tie breaker over the Hawks so Atlanta must finish ahead of them in the standings to remain in fifth place where they would match up against Joe Johnson and the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs.