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Short-handed Hawks fall short in Milwaukee, 129-115

Atlanta Hawks v Milwaukee Bucks

Just one hour before tip-off on Sunday evening, word broke that the Atlanta Hawks would be forced to operate without both Trae Young and Clint Capela — in addition to Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kris Dunn — against the Milwaukee Bucks. That certainly put the visiting team in an unfavorable position but, after a slow start, the Hawks did compete at a high level, even if they fell to the Bucks by a final score of 129-115.

The first quarter was a challenge for the Hawks, to the point where the slow start ultimately cost Atlanta a chance to make the full game more interesting. The visitors opened 1-of-9 from the floor and 0-of-5 from three-point range, falling behind by double digits in a hurry, and the Bucks closed the first quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 17-point advantage.

In a 12-minute period that featured very little in the way of positivity, rookie big man Onyeka Okongwu stood out on the defensive end. The No. 6 pick made his first career start and held up well against Giannis Antetokounmpo, drawing a charge and producing a block and a steal in the first quarter.

Atlanta fell behind by as many as 24 points in the second quarter, creating a very difficult situation for the comeback bid to come. However, the Hawks were notably better on the offensive end, keyed heavily by De’Andre Hunter and John Collins.

In fact, Hunter scored 14 points — on 5-of-7 shooting and 4-of-4 from the free throw line — in the second quarter to help Atlanta come alive.

The second-year forward also generated three assists in the quarter, performing at a high level all-around.

Still, the Hawks trailed by 19 at the halftime break, and the Bucks threatened to put the game away in short order. Atlanta did respond out of the locker room, however, zooming to a 14-6 run to make things interesting. Hunter and Collins scored 37 of the first 57 points for the Hawks, keeping the visitors in striking distance, and Atlanta’s explosion of 30 points in the first nine minutes of the quarter made things intriguing.

When the third quarter ended, the Hawks trailed by 11 points and it was almost an eight-point deficit, as Hunter connected on a half-court shot that was ruled to be too late after an official review.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Hawks were within single-digits, but the Bucks rattled off a 7-0 run to restore order at 103-88 with nine minutes remaining. Atlanta did manage to hang around, thanks in large part to a career-best offensive night from Hunter, but the big run never came and the Hawks fell by a 14-point final margin.

Hunter finished the night with a career-high 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting, with 2-of-5 from three-point range and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. He also added five rebounds and four assists, continuing his stellar early-season play.

Collins was also highly productive, scoring 30 points and pulling down seven rebounds. The fourth-year big man knocked down a career-high six three-pointers (on nine attempts) and the duo of Hunter and Collins combined to score more than half of Atlanta’s points.

In support, Danilo Gallinari contributed 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench, flashing some of the offensive intrigue that he brings to the table. As a team, the Hawks shot 51 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three-point range, overcoming a hideous offensive start to post strong overall efficiency. Still, the defense struggled against the high-powered Bucks and that was ultimately the difference on this night.

The Hawks will now return home for a back-to-back against the L.A. Clippers and the Brooklyn Nets beginning on Tuesday.

Stay tuned.