The Atlanta Hawks put on a tough fight in the first half to take on the Milwaukee Bucks. It was totally unexpected, considering the glaring offensive hole left by missing superstar point guard Trae Young.
The 51-38 scoreline at halftime was a surprise, and was the product of an ugly first half that turned out better for the Hawks. Atlanta did better with their opportunities and went 19 of 40 from the field and outscored Milwaukee in the paint 20-14 in the first half, while the visitors shot 14 of 41. Both teams were similarly awful from deep in the first half, with the Hawks going 5 of 18 and the Bucks going 5 of 23.
Lou Williams reminded everyone who he was in a rare start, going a perfect 4 of 4 from field and hitting all 4 free throws for 13 points. This helped offset Bojan Bogdanovic, who continued to struggled from the field, going 2 of 9 from the field in the first half. Prior to Game 4, he had averaged only 14.3 minutes and 4.3 PPG in the series.
Without Young, the offense was also spread out a lot more, and 8 out of 9 Hawks players that saw the floor in the first half score at least one bucket.
Atlanta played tough, grind-it-out, defense, and weren’t afraid to foul, committing a total of 13 fouls in the first half. Khris Middleton, who went supernova in the second half of Game 3, struggled from the field in the first half, going 3 of 10 and missing all four threes.
The Bucks aren’t a team that go away easily, though, and they showed that in the second half. Giannis Antetokounmpo started dominating in the paint again in the third quarter, which begged the question of why the Hawks didn’t stick to intentionally fouling him considering he airballed two free throws in the first half.
The Greek Freak started off hot with 8 quick points and helped the Bucks cut the lead to single digits, but disaster struck with 7:14 left in the third quarter when he hyperextended his knee while trying to defend an alley-oop attempt from Clint Capela. Giannis was on the ground for a long time and had to be helped to the locker room. He did finally start walking on his own two feet when he got to the tunnel, but had a noticeable limp.
The Hawks crowd, who had been all over the Bucks as good home audiences are, showed a lot of class during the tense moment as they fell deadly silent after the injury occured. They applauded Antetokounmpo when he finally got off the floor – showing an appreciation for a great player and what he brings to the game of basketball.
Without the Bucks’ best player on the floor, the Hawks took advantage, and rebuilt their lead, pushing what had been cut to a seven-point advantage lead to 20 with just over 4 minutes left in the third quarter.
A big reason for the surge was because Williams continued his hot streak in the second half, getting buckets and also finding his teammates for easy buckets. Bogdanovic also rediscovered his shooting touch in the third quarter, making 4 of 5 triples in the period.
Things got chippy in with a minute left in the third, as Middleton fouled Danilo Gallinari hard in the paint. It didn’t look like a flagrant foul, especially since Middleton went to the trouble of catching Gallinari and stopping him from hitting the floor, but they reviewed it anyway. It was correctly ruled a common foul.
By the time the dust settled in the third quarter, the Hawks had pushed their lead to 87-62, heavily buoyed by how they went 7 of 11 from deep. The Bucks never recovered, and the Hawks now suddenly find themselves with all to play for in a series that is tied 2-2.
With six Hawks scoring in double figures, the Hawks will feel a lot of confidence heading back to Milwaukee. This kind of ball-sharing also shows that they’re capable of scoring without Young, and he might factor that more into how he approaches the game when he returns.
Williams finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in 35 minutes while Bogdanovic finished with 20 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in 33 minutes.
Lemon Pepper Lou, who like Chris Paul is part of the 2005 draft class, will be happy to have gotten the chance to show that he can still ball. More importantly, he helped show the Bucks that this Atlanta team can’t be counted out even without Young.