Nate McMillan ejected in final minutes as Hawks fall to Bucks

Hawks coach Nate McMillan is called for a technical foul by referee Brett Nansel during the team's NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

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Hawks coach Nate McMillan is called for a technical foul by referee Brett Nansel during the team's NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

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MILWAUKEE – The Hawks (31-34) fought back in the second half but fell to the Bucks, 124-115, Wednesday at Fiserv Forum.

Next up, the Hawks will return home and host the Clippers Friday.

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Below are some takeaways from the loss:

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated with 43 points (15-for-22 field goals, 1-for-5 from 3-point range, 12-for-17 free throws), 12 rebounds and five assists for the Bucks (42-25). The Hawks had a tough time trying to defend him without fouling. Clint Capela (11 points, nine rebounds, plus-8) picked up two early fouls defending Antetokounmpo and sat from the 9:21 mark of the first quarter until the 7:32 mark in the second quarter. In that time, the Hawks went from trailing by two, 7-5, to down 49-33, unable to provide resistance. Capela stayed in foul trouble trying to limit Antetokounmpo, though, picking up his fifth early in the third quarter. With Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks had 62 points in the paint to the Hawks’ 46.

“He does a good job of getting downhill. ... Try to keep a body in front of him,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said of the Hawks trying to defend Antetokounmpo. “In the past, we’ve done a pretty good job of defending that and taking charges. You can take charges on his play, his style of play. We didn’t get a couple of those calls tonight and they just basically bullied us in the paint and just dominated the paint.”

2. After De’Andre Hunter (17 points, three rebounds) was called for an offensive foul with 1:22 to play, McMillan kept arguing with officials and was issued two back-to-back technical fouls, earning an ejection. This followed a no-call on Antetokounmpo after a similar play minutes prior, when Capela was knocked over, with both McMillan and Capela appearing livid after the no-call.

“I thought De’Andre’s play was the same play that Giannis had done a couple times in this game,” McMillan said. “And the result was a foul on De’Andre. And I thought Giannis twice, on a couple of our guys, drove through them.”

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Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives against Atlanta Hawks' De'Andre Hunter during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

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Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives against Atlanta Hawks' De'Andre Hunter during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives against Atlanta Hawks' De'Andre Hunter during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

3. Down by as much as 19 in the first half, the Hawks cut it to five, 91-86, toward the end of the third quarter after a dunk by Onyeka Okongwu (13 points, five rebounds) and two free throws by Trae Young (27 points, 11 assists). They won the third quarter 32-25 and trailed by a manageable seven points entering the fourth, getting it down to five twice and actually won the second half 61-56, but couldn’t come all the way back from a 14-point deficit at halftime. The Bucks, the No. 2 team in the East, have won six straight games.

“We dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t climb out of it. ... When you’re playing from behind the rest of the game, you’ve got to be pretty good,” wing Kevin Huerter said. “Against a team like that, a championship team, you can’t expect to dig yourself a hole and be successful a lot.”

4. Huerter returned after missing one game with left shoulder soreness and had a good shooting night, finishing with 16 points (6-for-11 FG, 4-for-7 from 3-point range), three rebounds and three assists.

5. This marked the Hawks’ first trip back to Milwaukee since last season’s Eastern Conference finals, though they’re in a much different spot in the standings this time. The Hawks (a No. 5 seed last year) are tied with the Hornets, four games back from the Raptors in the No. 7 spot, and just one game ahead of the Wizards in No. 11. They’ve got a razor-thin margin for error if they want to remain in play-in tournament contention, much less rise in the standings.

Bucks 124, Hawks 115

Stat of the game: 62 (the amount of points in the paint the Bucks scored, compared to the Hawks’ 46

Star of the game: Antetokounmpo (led the Bucks with 43 points, adding 12 rebounds and five assists)

Quotable: “I was ready also. ... It was either him or me.” (Capela on McMillan getting ejected after arguing with referees)