Atlanta Hawks guard Trent Forrest rises up for a floater
during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 30. (Will Peck/Sports Editor)

The Atlanta Hawks defeated the Chicago Bulls 113-101 on April 1 in their hunt for higher seeding in the NBA play-in tournament.

This came after the Hawks entered their game on March 30 against the Milwaukee Bucks with a four-game win streak, including two wins against the first-place Boston Celtics. Prior to the game, Hawks Head Coach Quin Snyder said the team’s recent success could be attributed to doing the “little things” right.

“Our discipline in getting back, our discipline in crashing the boards and getting hits on the defensive boards and being shifted where we need to be – there’s been a lot of things from an executional standpoint that we’ve done a better job in,” Snyder said. “Along with that, we’ve executed game plans.”

Both teams were undermanned for this contest. The Hawks listed seven players out prior to tip-off, and the Bucks played without all-star guard Damian Lillard.

However, the Hawks came out firing in the first quarter, hitting four of their first five shots, including three-pointers from guards Dejounte Murray and Bogdan Bogdanović and forward Vít Krejčí. The team’s lead was as large as 14-6 before the Bucks went on an eight-point run of their own.

Bucks forward Khris Middleton found success early, scoring 12 points in the first quarter. Murray, not to be outdone, had 11 first-quarter points of his own, but by the end of the quarter, the Bucks led 33-28.

The second quarter saw the teams trading baskets before the Bucks took control, leading by as much as 16 points. Bucks forward and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finally got going in this quarter by scoring nine points, five of which came from the free-throw line. The Bucks ended the second half with a 59-45 lead.

Antetokounmpo continued his run by scoring eight additional points within the first five minutes of the second half as the Bucks extended their lead to 21 points. The Hawks gained some steam after a surge that included five quick points from veteran guard Wesley Matthews, but their momentum was stifled after Antetokounmpo threw down two more powerful dunks which brought his personal point total to 31. The Hawks continued to trail behind the Bucks 89-74 at the end of the third quarter.

However, the Hawks revived their scoring ways in the fourth quarter. Bogdanović erupted for 17 points in this quarter, and center Bruno Fernando chipped in an energetic eight points off the bench. Forward De’Andre Hunter and Bogdanovic hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Bucks’ lead to five points.

Fernando said that his late-game boost came after Matthews urged him to pick up his intensity at halftime to provide a spark for the team.

“He came into the locker room at halftime and he told me how flat I was, how I needed to step up and pick up my energy and intensity to be able to have the team feed off that,” Fernando said. “That’s exactly what I came out and did.”

But once again, the Bucks had an answer. Middleton and center Brook Lopez hit a pair of threes to curb the Hawks’ momentum, and the Bucks never looked back. When the final buzzer sounded, the Bucks defeated the Hawks 122-113.

Despite the loss, the Hawks put on a great display of effort in the second half. Snyder said his team’s ability to keep the game close while being undersized showed their determination, especially in the final quarter. 

“To get to the point where we were down five out of that one time out, in a lot of ways that was big,” Snyder said. “It would have been easy to capitulate when you’re looking at 7-foot, 7-[foot]-2, 6-[foot]-9. That’s a big team and we battled.”

Murray echoed this sentiment and said that the loss did not take away from the team’s confidence in themselves.

“We believe in ourselves,” Murray said. “We just gotta take it one game at a time. You’re not gonna win every game, you’re not gonna lose every game. You can take these as lessons more than losses and just get better.”

+ posts