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Hot shooting Khris Middleton helps Bucks down late fading Hawks, 113-102

A rough loss for the Hawks in a couple of ways.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

After a 125-91 shellacking in Milwaukee in Game 2, the Atlanta Hawks returned home for Game 3 looking to put that performance behind them and take a 2-1 series lead over the Bucks.

The Hawks defense began with three turnovers forced in the first three defensive possessions, two of which led to run out dunks for Clint Capela, including this party starter.

The Bucks started 1-of-6 (16.7%) from the floor and the Hawks jumped out to a quick 15-2 lead behind the energy of the home crowd.

Hawks buried the Bucks early, starting 4-of-6 (66.7%) from long range — including this bomb and shimmy from Trae Young.

The Hawks crowd in State Farm Arena made sure to rattle Giannis Antetokounmpo by counting his seconds at the free throw line. He missed his first two tries and went to the bench with two early fouls at just under five minutes to play in the first quarter. He would come back in after a mild Bucks run to hit his next three straight free throws, however.

Milwaukee went on a 15-4 run in the first quarter on the shoulders of a 10-of-12 (83.3%) shooting streak to bring the contest to a 29-25 score and eventually end the period down just five points.

With the Bucks starting ice cold from long range and the Hawks red hot, the early lead was a bit misleading and rather tenuous for the home team. This — in conjunction with a 0-4 start from the free throw line in the second quarter — kept Milwaukee in the game despite the long distance woes. Also, Antetokounmpo has a tendency to do this:

Danilo Gallinari gave the Hawks a big boost off the bench in the first half, routinely punishing smaller defenders on switches. He chipped in 9 points on 4-of-6 (66.7%) shooting, like the two below.

The Bucks went on a 10-0 run to end the first half, however, to bring the score to 56-56. Atlanta had few answers for Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis down low, who combined for 32 points in the first 24 minutes. For Atlanta, Trae Young had a strong first half, with 17 points on 7-for-12 (58.3%) shooting and three assists as well.

Atlanta came out of the halftime break just as scorching as they did in the first period, putting in 17 points in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter. Young scored 12 straight points for the Hawks, including this old fashioned three point play here.

It would remain a back and forth, dogged affair in the third quarter, with the Bucks rallying to take their first lead of the game at 82-80. Trae Young suffered an ankle roll after making incidental contact with a referee and watched the end of the third quarter from the locker room. Just two points would separate the two teams heading into the fourth quarter.

Atlanta’s bench mob held serve while Trae Young was unavailable, including this Lou Williams to Onyeka Okongwu alley oop from the rafters.

Okongwu stayed in the game after Young’s return, and he continued to fight with Antetokounmpo defensively. But the Bucks were buoyed by a 4-for-4 three point streak from Khris Middleton to take a 101-98 lead with 5:05 left in the game.

The Hawks went scoreless from 3:56 to 1:24, with four missed shots and turn turnovers sandwiches by two John Collins makes. The deficit stretched from three to 10 before the second Collins bucket, and key buckets from Middleton down the stretch led a 30-17 fourth quarter margin for Milwaukee to put the game out of reach.

Middleton finished with 38 points (20 in the fourth), 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 11 rebounds in the win.

Young had 35 points, and again left late in the third with the apparent ankle roll. He made one three after retuning in the fourth, but was not moving like his normal self. Gallinari finished with 18 points.

The Hawks and Bucks will battle Tuesday in Game 4, facing a 2-1 series deficit and definitely needing a win with the series heading back to Milwaukee for Game 5.

Stay tuned.