Hawks drop Game 3 after Khris Middleton’s scoring burst; Trae Young’s injury

Hawks guard Trae Young is tended to on the floor with a possible ankle injury during the third quarter of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday, June 27, 2021, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Hawks guard Trae Young is tended to on the floor with a possible ankle injury during the third quarter of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday, June 27, 2021, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Khris Middleton caught fire and the Hawks went cold at the worst possible time, falling to the Bucks, 113-102, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday at State Farm Arena.

The No. 3 seed Bucks take a 2-1 lead in the series. Next up, Game 4 will be at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at State Farm Arena.

Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. Late in the third quarter, Trae Young sprained his right ankle when he backstepped onto an official’s foot, causing an awkward landing. He ended up missing the first few minutes of the fourth quarter and returning at the 8:44 mark, but didn’t look fully himself, which took some of the wind out of the Hawks’ sails. Young said after the game that he would get as much treatment as possible and the plan is for him to play in Game 4. But, it’s too soon to say for sure, and he’ll get an MRI Monday morning. His blow-by speed and push-off were affected by the sprain. Young led the Hawks in scoring with 35 points, to go with four assists. The Hawks entered the fourth quarter up by two.

“It’s sore right now,” Young said of his ankle. “It’s hurting. It’s frustrating. Yeah, it’s hurting a little bit, and it’s sore. I got some treatment on it. I’m going to go get some more in the morning. That’s all I can do right now is get treatment. When I came back in, it was kind of sore. It made me mad I couldn’t really go as fast as I wanted to, and when I did, it hurt. So I’ve just got to get treatment and hopefully get it better for the next game.

Milwaukee Bucks teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo (foreground) signals the three-point shot made by forward Khris Middleton  (background) over the Atlanta Hawks in the final minutes of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday, June 27, 2021, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

2. Middleton scored 20 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter, outscoring Atlanta (17) by himself. Although the Hawks had their best shooting game since Game 1 last round against Philly, they fell out of rhythm down the stretch — Young not being 100% may have been a contributing factor. The combination handed the Hawks a loss in Game 3. The Hawks shot 40.5% from 3-point range (15-37) overall but mustered just 17 points in the fourth quarter, shooting 38.9% from the field (7-18) and 12.5% from beyond the arc (1-8) in the final period. They had two field goals (and four points, as both were layups by John Collins) in the final 5:51 minutes.

“It made it even tougher that we lost our timeouts early in that half or in the game, and really just didn’t have a way of stopping that run,” Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan said. “Middleton got hot and made some tough shots. We had open looks in that fourth quarter and just didn’t knock down those shots. Really they did what you need to do to win. When we got a rhythm and got a little momentum going, they were able to respond with some big baskets and big stops.”

3. It is a disappointing loss because it genuinely seemed like one the Hawks could win, generating a solid response to a blowout loss in Game 2, until the perfect storm of obstacles assembled in the fourth quarter. They were up 15 early in the first, limited turnovers for the most part (with 12, compared to 20 in Game 2) and Young was rolling. Instead, they go down 2-1. But, all hope is not lost. This is the same hole they fell in against the No. 1 seed 76ers, who they defeated in seven games in the semifinals. And, they’ve got another home game Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t say we’re in a great spot, obviously, we’d rather be up 2-1, but it’s not a spot that we’re not familiar with,” said wing Kevin Huerter, who tallied 11 points, a team-high seven assists, four rebounds and three blocks, playing scrappy defense. “... Still got a long series ahead of us, first to four. That was kind of the message in the locker room. We’ve got to stay together, and we will. Like I said, we’ve been in this position before last series and figured out a way to get it done. So we’ve still got a lot of basketball left to play.”

4. The speed at which Giannis Antetokounmpo takes free throws (which is anything but speedy) will continue to be a topic of conversation, if the State Farm Arena crowd has anything to say about it. Once the ref passes Antetokounmpo the ball at the line, the crowd started counting to 10, as there’s a 10-second limit to release the ball. The crowd’s countdown is not a foolproof stopwatch, of course, but it is something the Hawks want a close eye kept on, McMillan has said. Antetokounmpo was not called for exceeding the time limit Sunday, however. He finished with 33 points (going 6-13 from the line, however), with 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals.

5. Bogdan Bogdanovic has struggled with right knee soreness since the end of the series against Philadelphia, and although it seems he’s getting some bounce back, shots still aren’t falling (eight points, 3-16 from the field, 2-10 from 3-point range). He added three assists and three steals in 35 minutes. At his best, Bogdanovic is an elite 3-point shooter and a good creator and defender for the Hawks, too, but he’s been struggling lately. Wing Cam Reddish is mostly out of the rotation, since he had a four-month layoff due to injury, so Bogdanovic is still the go-to.

“His shot has not fallen for him, but he’s a guy who I believe that next shot is going down,” McMillan said. “He has some wide-open looks that I’m willing to trust that he’s going to knock those shots down. It just isn’t falling for him. It hasn’t fallen for him this series, but health-wise, he’s actually getting better.”

Stat of the game

20-17 (what Khris Middleton scored in the fourth quarter compared to the Hawks as a team)

Star of the game

Middleton (scored 20 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter, lifting the Bucks to victory)


“I got out there and hit my first three, and it really feels like I should be out there and keep fighting at least. That’s what I tried to do is keep fighting.” (Young on playing in the fourth quarter, despite the injury)

Hawks-Bucks series

Game 1: Hawks 116, Bucks 113

Game 2: Bucks 125, Hawks 91

Game 3: Bucks 113, Hawks 102

Game 4, Tuesday, June 29: Bucks at Hawks, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 5, Thursday, July 1: Hawks at Bucks, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 6*, Saturday, July 3: Bucks at Hawks, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Game 7*, Monday, July 5: Hawks at Bucks, 8:30 p.m., TNT

* — If necessary