Hawks drop tough matchup against Giannis, Bucks 120-109

In a matchup between the Eastern Conference’s third and fourth seeds, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Atlanta Hawks 120-109 at State Farm Arena on Thursday night.

Among the Hawks’ concerns, head coach Nate McMillan cited the Bucks’ capitalization on his team’s lackadaisical defense and ball movement. 

“Anytime we made a mistake (or) we turned the ball over, they made us pay,” McMillan said. “Offensively, you’ve got to take care of the ball; you’ve got to value every possession when you’re playing in games like this. If you’re turning that ball over, and they’re converting those turnovers into points, it’s just going to put that much pressure on your defense and offense to score and to win games.”

McMillan’s team allowed 21 points on 11 turnovers in his 22nd game as head coach.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks in a 28-point effort, but even with six three-pointers, the rest of the team struggled to keep up with a Bucks team that has been at the top of three-point shooting all season, shooting just 8-22.

Trae Young, a game-time decision, struggled in 37 minutes, and it looked like his left calf was still bothering him. He shot 3-17 from the field, including a 0-6 first half, and recorded nine assists.

Solomon Hill scored a season-high 18 points, Kevin Huerter and Clint Capela each pitched in 16, and Capela also secured a game-high 16 rebounds.

Atlanta’s bench scored just 16 points in the effort, led by rookie Onyeka Okongwu’s eight compared to 46 Bucks bench points. McMillan called the margin from the two supporting casts “dominant.”

On the victor’s side, two-time defending NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo took a back seat to watch five other players score in double figures outside his 15 points. Jrue Holiday led Milwaukee with 23 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Brook Lopez contributed 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Antetokounmpo finished with 15 points, five rebounds and two assists.

The Hawks gave Milwaukee a run for their money at various points in the game, none more promising than the 74-73 lead they held midway through the third quarter. However, the Hawks’ one-point lead turned into a 94-82 deficit before the period ended.

With just their six loss in the last 22 games, the Hawks are still waiting to dress a fully healthy roster for the first time this season. John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Danillo Gallinari all missed tonight’s game.

The loss puts the Hawks at 30-26, just a half-game ahead of the Boston Celtics and two games ahead of the eighth-seeded Charlotte Hornets in a competitive East.

Hill, who played with the Miami Heat in last year’s NBA Finals, and the third-oldest Hawk, hopes that tonight served as a measuring stick for a franchise that can taste what could be most of the roster’s first playoffs.

“This is our first time really understanding the moment, the implications that it has as a team,” Hill said. “[The Bucks] are there in the position they’re in because of how they play the game of basketball, defensively and offensively, and they had their way tonight.”

The Hawks will have a few days off before hosting the Indiana Pacers on Sunday at 1:00 p.m at State Farm Arena.