For the first time during the 2016-2017 season, the Atlanta Hawks took the floor without Dwight Howard and Thabo Sefolosha and, for 24 minutes, the results were quite favorable. After halftime, that sentiment did not carry through, but the margin was large enough that the Hawks were able to hold on for a 107-100 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The evening began in truly ugly fashion, as the two teams combined to make just 2 of their 15 shots. Despite that ineptitude, the Hawks claimed an early 7-2 lead, but an 11-2 run from Milwaukee erased that margin as Atlanta contributed to visibly struggle offensively. The Hawks would recover to close the quarter respectably with a five-point deficit, but it certainly was not the most aesthetically pleasing product.
In the second quarter, that trend continued... for one of the two teams. The Hawks zoomed to a dominant 19-0 (!!!) run to begin the period, and that spurt included dunks from both Taurean Prince and Tim Hardaway Jr. while Milwaukee flailed offensively. All told, the Bucks missed their first 11 shots of the quarter and Milwaukee would go on to score only nine points in the 12-minute period.
To be frank, it was one of the uglier quarters of basketball from one team in recent memory, as the Bucks also allowed the Hawks to score 31 points on the other end. The nine-point output was the second-lowest total allowed by the Hawks in a second quarter in franchise history, and it doubled as the lowest-scoring quarter by any opponent this season. For good measure, Milwaukee made just 3 of 27 field goal attempts in the quarter and, well, that is incomprehensibly poor.
When the dust settled, the Hawks held a 52-35 lead at the half and they did so while shooting only 46 percent from the floor and 4 of 18 (22 percent) from beyond the arc. Prince (6 points, 4 rebounds in 12 minutes) and Hardaway Jr. (10 points) keyed the push from the bench, but the 17-point lead did feel partially like a gift considering Atlanta’s limited rotation.
The home team threatened to run away and hide to start the second half, as the Hawks scored the first seven points to extend their advantage to 24. From there, though, Milwaukee actually responded, putting up 20 points in less than five minutes of clock time to come within 13 and that was enough to keep things competitive for the remainder of the period. In fact, Giannis Antetokounmpo put together back-to-back highlight-reel finishes in the closing seconds, and that kept Milwaukee within (relative) striking distance at 84-70.
The Bucks weren’t done there, either, as the visitors exploded out of the gate in the fourth quarter to the tune of a 13-3 run to slash the margin to just four at 87-83 with eight minutes to play. Milwaukee would eventually climb within just three points, but Kyle Korver connected on a 28-foot bomb that placed Atlanta back within the “safe zone” at 100-92 with four minutes to go and it looked as if the Hawks would hold on for victory.
Milwaukee wouldn’t completely fade away, but Paul Millsap’s step-back jumper with 1:37 remaining gave Atlanta an eight-point lead and the advantage would never dip below four points for the duration. Finally, the Hawks would escape with a 107-100 victory that, quite honestly, seemed fortunate given the second half showing.
On a night without Howard and Sefolosha, there were some individual heroes for Atlanta. Mike Muscala played 35 minutes and scored 16 points while competing against Milwaukee’s bigs and posting a +10 rating for the evening. Elsewhere, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 13 points off the bench, with Paul Millsap (21 points, 8 rebounds) putting together a typically strong showing.
The Atlanta Hawks will have a day to recuperate and get healthy before taking on the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night, but it feels safe to say that a better collective performance will be commanded in order to claim victory in the next contest. Stay tuned.