The Atlanta Hawks overcame a cold shooting night from the outside on Friday and found other ways to succeed in a 101-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. After making a season-best 17 three-pointers in Wednesday's win over Washington, Atlanta was just 5 for 32 against Milwaukee. However, good overall defense and an offensive spark from Jeff Teague late enabled them to pull out the victory.
"They're a tough matchup for everybody," Mike Budenholzer said following the game when asked about the win. "Their young wings, Antetokounmpo and Parker are hard to match up with. Defensively, they give us trouble."
It was an interesting matchup for the Hawks in trying to slow Antetokounmpo who has been playing a lot of point forward for Milwaukee. A steady diet of Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha helped hold him to just 11 points and 5 of 14 shooting.
"The intensity was there," Tim Hardaway Jr answered when asked about the team's defense on the wing. "The bigs did a good job of coming out and helping us guards when they go penetration. And the guards helped the bigs, so they didn't get any offensive rebounds. It didn't always work, but it did work the majority of the time, and it helped us get the win."
Parker got off to a good start scoring 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter but he too had to work hard for his points and finished the game 8 of 18 from the field.
"Trying to take away the paint, trying to keep him (Antetokounmpo) on the perimeter," Budenholzer said about trying to slow down Milwaukee's young wings. "To some degree, I thought we had some success with that. Parker actually hit a handful of mid-range jumpers. Antetokounmpo had one or two himself. At the end of the day, I think they're in the top two or three, if not the best, at scoring in the paint. We wanted to do everything we could to take that away."
The Hawks succeeded as they outscored the Bucks 58-42 in the paint. As important as the three-point line is to Atlanta's success, attacking the paint is a requirement. The Hawks got a number of great looks from the three-point line on Friday that simply didn't fall. However, they did enough right in the other aspects of the game to pull out the victory.
"We gave them way too much in the first half in the paint," Thabo Sefolosha said. "We definitely did a lot better in the second half, as far as not giving them too many second chance points and not letting them get too many layups."
Atlanta finished the game with a 20-18 edge in second chance points and a 22-14 edge in fast break points. They also converted 14 of 17 free-throw attempts in the game to help hold off the Bucks.
Teague returns to the closer role
With the Hawks desperately needing a spark offensively, Jeff Teague stepped up in the fourth quarter and answered the bell. Teague scored 12 of his 18 points in the final period including a personal 8-0 run that included a pair of three-point plays.
"It's good to win games like this," Teague said. "We had to do it a different way on defense."
Teague struggled through the first three-quarters and entered the fourth with just six points on 3 for 10 shooting. However, with Dennis Schröder on the bench in foul trouble, Teague closed out the game going 4 for 7 from the field and made all four of his free-throw attempts down the stretch.
"We're just playing with a lot of energy and defensive urgency," Teague added about the Hawks' recent run of success. "When we're active on defense, it leads to easy baskets for us to get out on a run. I think the second unit, when they come in, they change the pace of the game. Dennis, Tim, Thabo and those guys...pushing the ball....we try to come in, the first unit, and just keep it going."
Sefolosha continues to come up big off the bench
While the play of Dennis Schröder and Tim Hardaway Jr has drawn the most attention of late, Thabo Sefolosha has been huge for the Atlanta Hawks off the bench of late. Sefolosha finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists in Friday's win over Milwaukee and is quietly having his best month of the season.
In 13 games in March, Sefolosha is averaging 7.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 53 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range.
Sefolosha is key to the Hawks' success defensively but he is finding ways to contribute both on the boards and on the offensive end of the floor. Best of all, he appears to be fully healthy and that will be a huge lift for Atlanta heading into the playoffs.