ATLANTA — Can you say winning streak?
After the Hawks went 1-5 on a grueling six-game road trip, they returned home to face the worst team in the NBA (record wise) in the Bucks and earned their second straight victory with a 102-97 win over Milwaukee.
Atlanta started out like a team that was fatigued from the road trip, as they came out flat. The Hawks shot 52% from the field in the first, but lacked energy, and gave up 30 points on 54% shooting to the Bucks. If it wasn’t for Paul Millsap, who had 12 points and 3 rebounds in the quarter, the deficit would have been much larger than seven.
The second quarter wasn’t much better for the Hawks, and the Bucks took a double-digit lead at some points in the second period. The energy level wasn’t there, and it looked as if they were going to allow New York to gain a game on them in the race for the eighth seed. Atlanta did end the period on a 7-0 run, and cut it to six at the break.
Whatever coach Bud said to the guys at halftime, it worked. The Hawks came out with much better effort, and they had an impressive third quarter. Elton Brand was a nice spark off the bench, tallying six points and four boards in just under five minutes of action in the quarter. They held the Bucks to just 14 third quarter points, and would take a one-point lead heading into the final period.
Offense would be the name of the game in the fourth quarter, as both teams crossed the 30-point threshold. Although the energy was better, the Hawks still allowed Brandon Knight and Ramon Sessions to get in the lane, and they needed to step it up. The game was hanging in the balance in the final minutes, and the Hawks stepped up when it mattered. Kyle Korver, who had 12 points in the fourth, hit some clutch three-pointers, and he and Jeff Teague helped put this game away. The Bucks led 89-87 with 2:19 to go, when Teague and Korver went on a 9-0 run, capped off by a Teague dunk, to finish them off. The foul game would ensue, and the Hawks finally won 102-97. This is their second win in a row after beating the Jazz back on Monday.
Jeff Teague had his best game in a while with 22 points and 8 assists on 7 of 10 shooting. Korver added 15, Paul Millsap had 17, and DeMarre Carroll had 15 for Atlanta in this one. Lou Williams was not with the team because of “exciting family news” which meant more minutes for rookie Dennis Schröder off the bench. He played 15 minutes and had eight points and five assists, effectively making this one of his best performances.
The Hawks regain a half game on the Knicks for the eighth seed, and are now three and a half games up. They are back in action on Saturday against Denver at home.
“We have to play a lot better than this going forward. But I think the group knows that,” Coach Budenholzer said after the game. “Wins are important and we need to build on the win, and we need to build on where and when we played well. I don’t think anybody feels like we’re settled after two wins in a row.” This game was ugly, but like they have all season, the Hawks showed resiliency. This is the worst team in the NBA, but the guys knew it wasn’t going to be easy. “Nobody is bad in the NBA. Any given night, anybody can beat you. We know that, so we just come out and play well and hope we can get a win,” Jeff Teague said after the game.
Zaza Pachulia made his return to Atlanta after eight seasons with the Hawks. “It was good to come back to Atlanta and see all the familiar faces I had a chance to work with the last nine years,” Zaza said after the Bucks’ 52nd loss of the season. The Hawks gave him a nice video tribute during the first quarter:
Don’t look now, but the Hawks have won two straight.