In a rematch from a week ago, the Atlanta Hawks visited Fiserv Forum to take on the top seeded Milwaukee Bucks. This wasn’t the most anticipated matchup of the season by any means as neither team had any real stake in the game. Nevertheless, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks always put on a show and Sunday was no different in a 115-107 win for the Bucks. It was their 60th win of the season, just the fifth time that’s been done in franchise history.
Milwaukee had all of their healthy starters back in but were expected to be on limited minutes. The Hawks were without a couple of their young stars, Trae Young and John Collins, so this seemed like a good game to reach win number 60. It seems that every game lately, Khris Middleton has been the first to score. This was true again when he found a wide open layup and followed it up with a floater near the baseline. Atlanta started very sloppy on offense and were giving the Bucks anything they wanted on the offensive side. This game meant nothing for either team in terms of season standings so it was understandable that players seemed a little out of focus.
Despite the unimportance of the game, Milwaukee still found ways to get the crowd into it early. Brook Lopez blocked a layup opportunity and the ball found it’s way to Eric Bledsoe who hit Giannis with an alley-oop. On the very next possession, Brook blocked another shot in the lane which led to a transition dunk by Sterling Brown. Atlanta took a timeout less than five minutes into the game, their squad down 14-7. Four minutes later another timeout was called with not much changing, Bucks up 21-17. Neither team was hitting shots and a high clip.
The bench unit didn’t have much more success at the end of the first quarter. They picked up a couple of turnovers in what was a total of five for Milwaukee in the first twelve minutes. Still, they held a 28-21 league in what was an ugly start to a professional basketball game. Giannis led all scorers with eight points. Each team had already gone at least five deep into their bench but no one had more than five points but Giannis.
To begin the second period, Giannis whiffed on an attempted block on a dunk from DeAndre Bembry so, naturally, Giannis reverse slammed it on the other end shortly after. Then, as an encore, Giannis flew the length of the court to block a Bembry transition dunk attempt. This was another example of why you should never give Giannis a reason to be frustrated. He always finds a way to get payback. Milwaukee built a ten point lead by the first timeout of the quarter four minutes in.
Giannis was on the bench out of the timeout but it didn’t slow down the Bucks. The lead was quickly extended to sixteen behind a couple impressive shots by Lopez in the post. There was a scary moment for Bucks’ fans in the middle of the quarter. Pat Connaughton stepped on Vince Carter’s foot and twisted his ankle. He got up under his own power but did appear to be in discomfort. For a team that is full of injuries, this was the last thing they needed with two games left in the season. The defense faltered a little bit in the closing minutes of the first half but Milwaukee held a 54-45 lead at halftime. Giannis and D.J. Wilson were the only players to score in double digits in the first half for either team. They each scored ten during ten minutes from Giannis and fourteen minutes from Wilson.
The second half began with the game’s starters in for both teams. Giannis hit a pair of free throws to get the second half scoring started on the first possession. The scoring remained slow still but the energy didn’t lack as evident by Giannis posterizing Alex Len on a driving dunk. Four minutes into the half, the Bucks had a twelve point lead. The lead got as high as seventeen behind total domination from Giannis and Khris but Atlanta fought back when the starters were resting and got the deficit down to seven with four minutes left in the quarter.
George Hill has been phenomenal off the bench lately for Milwaukee and tonight was a similar performance. With Bledsoe and Sterling Brown on the bench, he took the role of point guard and provided the offensive spark to keep the lead. It also helped that despite Ersan Ilyasova’s broken nose, he was still taking charges on driving Hawks’ players. The Bucks had an 85-72 lead going into the final period. Giannis had a very productive quarter, scoring 13 points in just six minutes.
Surprisingly, Brook was the only starter to not start on the court for the fourth quarter. With a thirteen point lead, it didn’t seem necessary to keep Giannis and other in but that’s all up to Coach Bud. Even with the starters in, Milwaukee’s lead started to fade. Four minutes in, the lead was down to six. Coach Bud called a timeout quickly as this one seemed locked up and poor defense was allowing the Hawks new life. Another big factor was Milwaukee having their worst three point shooting game of the season.
The lead was down to three for the Bucks with four minutes left when Giannis fought through contact and hit a floater while falling back for an and-1 opportunity. Giannis missed, however, and the intensity in the gym was as high as it could be for a seemingly meaningless game. Shortly after, it was back down to three when Khris hit two threes in a row to open up a more comfortable gap with two minutes remaining. The dagger was a three by Giannis with just over a minute left to push the gap to twelve. The Bucks closed it out and won 115-107.
Giannis had another productive night with 30/9/3/3 blocks on 10-15 shooting and 2-5 from deep in 25 minutes.
Khris was close behind with 21/5/3 on 8-19 shooting. Milwaukee shot 22% from deep compared to 38% from Atlanta.
The Milwaukee Bucks secured their 60th win of the season at Fiserv Forum, the first time since 1980-81. That was the only thing in play in this game. The Hawks had been eliminated from the playoff race basically since the season started and the Bucks had already secured the best record in the NBA. Coach Bud opted to give the starters their fair share of minutes even with the minutes restriction. The whole active roster played a part in Milwaukee’s historic win. This was Coach Bud’s second season in his career with 60 wins, his last being with the Atlanta Hawks in the 2014-2015 season. He became just the seventh coach in history to achieve the goal with two different teams. With just one game remaining and now having absolutely nothing to play for, Coach Bud will most likely sit nearly all of their starters to get them well rested for the first round of the playoffs next weekend.
The Bucks will close out the season at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7:00 p.m.