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Hawks toppled by Bucks for fourth straight loss, 135-127

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Mild improvement, but another defeat.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The end of the West Coast trip wasn’t kind to the Atlanta Hawks, with back-to-back blowout losses in Los Angeles. After a period of rest and refocusing, the team returned to State Farm Arena on Wednesday. While the performance was unquestionably better, the result was still unfavorable, with Atlanta falling to the Milwaukee Bucks by a final score of 135-127.

In what is becoming an alarming trend, the Hawks struggled out of the gate, committing three fouls in the first 50 seconds and falling behind by 14-4 margin. Atlanta acted quickly to mitigate the damage, though, with an 11-0 run keyed by Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and a fantastic two-way sequence from Jabari Parker.

During Atlanta’s spurt, Milwaukee didn’t score for almost four minutes and, though the Bucks did finish strong to take a 34-26 lead, the response was admirable from the home team. The Hawks did struggle with efficiency in the opening period, however, shooting just 9 of 24 from the floor.

The Hawks made a 16-3 push to take the lead late in the second quarter, leading 61-58 at the break. Atlanta outscored the Bucks 35-24 overall in the second, responding with a solid defensive period after a worrisome start on that end of the floor.

The story of the first half for the Hawks was the play of the team’s rookie forwards, with Reddish pouring in 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor (2-2 from three-point-range) and Hunter scoring also scoring 12 points, going 5-of-7 on field goals and 2-for-2 from deep.

The third quarter, much like the first, began in disastrous fashion for the Hawks, with a 17-3 run by the Bucks. That figure included 12 from Giannis Antetokounmpo and, in general, Atlanta was reeling. After a timeout, the Hawks did right the ship, riding the bench (!!) to a 10-0 run and stabilizing things in competitive fashion.

Vince Carter even got in on the act.

Some of the momentum was quelled at the end of the quarter, though, when a non-call went against Atlanta on a three-point attempt from Trae Young. That prompted technical fouls for both Young and Lloyd Pierce and, when the dust settled, the Hawks trailed by 13 points with only 12 minutes remaining.

Early in the closing period, Young got it going with six straight points but, overall, the Hawks failed to generate defensive stops. Eric Bledsoe got into a groove for Milwaukee and the Bucks scored 25 points in the first six minutes of the quarter. It seemed as if the Hawks would fade at that juncture but, to their credit, Atlanta created a flurry of activity using a trapping defense and made things (quite) interesting again.

In fact, the margin was trimmed to double-digits with a 13-1 run and Atlanta was within seven points in the game’s final minute. In the end, though, the Bucks did enough to hold off the charge and settle in to an eight-point final margin.

Individually, the headline of the night was the play of Hunter, who scored a career-high 27 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 3 from long distance. The No. 4 overall pick also grabbed 11 rebounds, and he was flanked in positive play by Reddish (17 points on 6 of 10 shooting), Young (25 points and eight assists) and Carter (13 points).

After a day off on Thursday, the Hawks face a back-to-back against the Detroit Pistons (on the road) on Friday and the Toronto Raptors (at home) on Saturday.

Stay tuned.