The Hawks got off to a quick start behind a pair of early Kyle Korver threes that pushed his streak of consecutive games with a made three-pointer to 72. Atlanta led 12-5 in the first quarter before Ersan Ilyasova and the Bucks caught fire from three.
Milwaukee shot 7-of-11 (63.6%) from the three point line in the first quarter and were led by Ilyasova's 14 points (3-of-4 on threes). The Bucks led 30-24 after the first quarter and extended their lead to 54-40 at the half behind more hot shooting from Ilyasova, who finished the half with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting (5-of-6 from three).
The Bucks scored the first five points of the third quarter to push the lead to 59-40 before coach Larry Drew called a quick timeout to send his team a message.
As Drew said, "I called a quick timeout. Some things were said in the huddle; they responded. It's unfortunate it has to come to that."
Al Horford elaborated on Drew's message saying, "He said 'get it together and pick it up.' We were dragging a little bit and that woke us up."
Whatever was said in the huddle seemed to work, as the Hawks went on a 12-0 run after the timeout to cut the Milwaukee lead to seven. Devin Harris was the catalyst of the comeback scoring nine of the Hawks 12 points on that run including a pair of fast break buckets and a three pointer. Harris was 0-for-7 in the first half, and Drew said he contemplated taking Harris out to start the second half, but the veteran guard bounced back to give Atlanta a much needed jolt of energy. Harris finished with 19 points, all of which came in the second half.
"[The shots] started to fall eventually," said Harris. "We had open shots all night long. I just did a better job of making them in the second half...We took care of the ball a lot better, got better shots at the basket and really got out in transition."
Ilyasova finished the game with 25 points as he made just one field goal in the second half. Monta Ellis had a huge night scoring 27 points and dishing out a career-high 17 assists, but it was not enough to get the Bucks a win.
Al Horford posted a monstrous double-double with 18 points and 17 rebounds, but he didn't come alive offensively until the second half where he scored 14 points. Horford did a better job taking advantage of mismatches in the second half when the Bucks put Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh, or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on him. Horford's activity level on offense was much better in the second half, which opened up the lane for himself and Josh Smith, as well as the guards. The Hawks finished the game with 62 points in the paint.
Josh Smith had a big night offensively, scoring 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting along with six rebounds and four steals. Smith struggled on the defensive end in the first half, especially on pick-and-pop threes from Ilyasova, but he locked down in the second half and defended players all over the floor. Smith's final assignment of the night was to guard Monta Ellis down the stretch, and he did a good job of bothering Ellis' shot and not allowing him easy layup opportunities.
Ivan Johnson was a big factor in the fourth quarter playing all but 18 seconds of the final period. Johnson had six of his nine points in the fourth quarter and gave the Hawks a great boost of energy on both ends of the floor.
"With Ivan in the game, we got into a real good rhythm," said Drew. "I actually wanted to bring Devin back toward the middle of that fourth quarter, but having Ivan, Josh, and Al in there, I was getting some really good mileage out of that group so I elected to stay with that group. That's how Josh ended up on Monta Ellis, but Ivan did a phenomenal job...he had an awesome game."
The big lineup of Smith, Johnson, and Horford allowed the Hawks to do more things defensively and also attack the glass better. Al and Ivan talked after the game about what being on the floor together allows them to do defensively.
"[The three of us on the floor] just gives us a bigger presence," Johnson said. "Extra rebounding, we all can run, bigs running; can't nobody stop that...Our length is good, but we all move like little dudes, so that's a plus."
"[Playing the big lineup] allowed us to switch more [defensively]," said Horford, "but at the same time it allowed me to stay on Ilyasova. He was real hot, so I just wanted to make sure he didn't get any looks."
The Hawks clinched at least the sixth seed with the win and Boston's loss to the Heat, and Atlanta moved into the fifth seed a half-game ahead of the Bulls. The Hawks have two games remaining, Tuesday at home against Toronto and on the road Wednesday against the Knicks. Atlanta will play either Indiana (The official NBATV series of the first round) or Brooklyn (The Joe Johnson series) in the playoffs.