Khris Middleton helps Bucks pull out sluggish win over Hawks
MILWAUKEE — Khris Middleton had 21 points to lead a balanced attack for the Milwaukee Bucks, and All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo hit two key buckets in the final three-plus minutes to spark a 97-92 win on Tuesday night over the Atlanta Hawks.
Tyler Zeller added 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting in his first game in Milwaukee since joining the team on the road before the trade deadline last week. The Bucks improved to 9-2 since Joe Prunty took over as interim coach following the firing of Jason Kidd, getting back in the race for a top-four playoff seed in the East.
Dennis Schroder scored 18 points for the Hawks, and Ersan Ilyasova had nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Ilyasova spearheaded a late rally in which Atlanta erased a 12-point deficit and tied it at 84 on Kent Bazemore’s 3-pointer with 3:30 left.
Antetokounmpo, who finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds, answered with a mid-range jumper and layup to open an 8-0 run. Schroder and Bazemore then whiffed on open layups following a steal with less than a minute left that could have helped the Hawks mount one last comeback.
A 14-2 run in the third quarter for the Bucks briefly broke open what had been a ho-hum game marked by questionable shot selection and bad misses on both sides. Middleton’s jumper with 2:58 left completed the spurt and lifted Milwaukee to a 65-53 lead.
The Hawks were opening a two-game road swing before the All-Star break, while the Bucks returned home following a four-game trip. Both teams looked as if they needed some time off during a sluggish first half that ended with Atlanta leading 43-41.
Atlanta took some wild shots and tossed passes into the stands as it tried to spread the floor. Milwaukee was just 4 of 15 (27 percent) from 3-point range in the first half.
Hawks: Second in the league at forcing turnovers (15.8 per game), Atlanta got the Bucks to cough up the ball just 10 times. … Bazemore had 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
Bucks: Forward Jabari Parker played 18 minutes and scored seven points after missing the previous game for rest. He has shown flashes of the explosiveness that made him a dangerous player before missing a year after suffering the second major left knee injury of his career on Feb. 8, 2017. At one point in the first half, Parker ripped down a rebound before dribbling nearly the length of the court and dishing near the bucket after drawing a double team. … Thon Maker started at center for John Henson, who missed a second straight game with a sore right hamstring.
Hawks: Finish up the second half of a back-to-back by visiting the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday in their last game before the All-Star break.
Bucks: Host the Denver Nuggets on Thursday in their last game before the break.