“Well, it starts with controlling the basketball. You got to control the ball, because if you can’t control the ball, it’s going to force your defense to collapse and come in and help and they got shooters on the perimeter,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “That’s what they want. The team is built to, if you’re collapsing for Giannis (Antetokounmpo’s) penetration, they’re going to shoot the three and (Brook) Lopez was hot the first half and they continued to knock down those open threes throughout the game.”
2. Trae Young shouldered the Hawks’ offense on Saturday night, picking up 17 points by the end of the first quarter. Despite cooling off when he returned from the bench in the second quarter, Young found his flow and scored 33 points by the end of the third.
Young’s aggressiveness on the offensive end helped to keep the Hawks after they fell into a bit of a hole in the second quarter. The fifth-year guard accounted for over 65% of the Hawks’ offense in the third to cut into the nine-point lead the Bucks tried to hold.
3. Following Young’s heroics in the third, the Hawks’ second unit looked to capitalize on the shift in momentum. The Hawks went on an 11-2 run to cut the Bucks’ lead to one with 5:59 to go in the game.
The Hawks had not led in the game since the final four minutes of the first quarter and they briefly reclaimed it with a pull-up three from Young.
But the Hawks couldn’t establish control of the game and settled for highly contested shots against the top defensive team in the league.
The Bucks have allowed the fewest points per game in the NBA this season and prior to Saturday’s game had a league-best 99.8 defensive rating. Following Saturday’s action, the Bucks still have a league-best defensive rating at 102.6.
“I felt that we made it a shootout,” McMillan said. “I think we got to be more aggressive getting to the basket. Tonight, I thought we settled a lot for the jump shot and the deep ball, and we didn’t get to the free-throw line — only 15 free-throw attempts. I don’t even know if we had a free-throw attempt in the fourth quarter.
“So, you can’t settle. You gotta get pressure, we need to get to the penalty by keeping pressure on their defense by attacking them, and not settling on the perimeter for contested shots.”
4. The Hawks did manage to slow Bucks star Antetokounmpo for at least the first half of the game. He eventually warmed and worked himself into a rhythm after the Hawks held him to 1-of-7 shooting from the floor.
Hawks second-year center Onyeka Okongwu gave the team what they needed to help limit the damage that Antetokounmpo is capable of doing inside the paint.
“Whenever I’m guarding a marquee player like that, just overall all my attention gravitated towards them,” Okongwu said. “So, I just wanted to be a physical, aggressive with him and learn how to guard without fouling.”
Antetokounmpo has averaged 34.5 points per game leading into Saturday’s matchup. But after getting into a rhythm in the second quarter and capitalizing on the Hawks’ physicality, Antetokounmpo scored 34 on 11-of-22 shooting. He made 11 of his 19 free-throw attempts.
5. Though the Hawks did not completely blow the rebounding battle, they did allow the Bucks to get away with a number of costly offensive boards. One of the challenges for the Hawks this season is to limit the second-chance opportunities of their opponents.
So far this season, the Hawks have allowed 101 second-chance points or an average of 16.8 per game. That’s the sixth-worth average in the league through six games. On Saturday, the Hawks allowed the Bucks to score 20. The Hawks are 0-2 when they allow their opponents to score 20 or more points on second-chance opportunities.
Stat to know
Trae Young is averaging 31.5 points per game and has scored 35 or more points in the last three games.
“I think, you just got to keep fighting, like we did. We can’t put ourselves in too much of a hole like we did to start the game. But if we do a better job of starting games and then we don’t have to find a way to get ourselves back into it. So we just got to start the game a little bit better and faster and just learn that way.” -- Trae Young on what this loss taught the team.
The Hawks head across the border to face the Raptors in Toronto on Monday night.