Through four injury-plagued seasons, Bucks fans held out hope for Jabari Parker to have a game like he did Wednesday night.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft set a career-high with 33 points, including three 3-pointers, and also grabbed 14 rebounds.
Unfortunately for Milwaukee fans, Parker accomplished that feat while wearing a Hawks uniform. But unfortunately for the Hawks, it wasn't enough to snap what's now an eight-game losing streak after falling 111-102 to the top team in the Eastern Conference.
“I just love the energy coming back here,” Parker said. “It's like my second home in a lot of ways. I get excited playing here.”
That excitement was evident early as Parker scored the Hawks’ first eight points and 10 of their first 12 as they crept out to a tenuous early lead.
“He had that quick twitch, he was attacking,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “His first two baskets were at the rim and that helped. His first three, that goes down, so seven points, attacking the rim, getting the rhythm three. I think everything kind of feels like it’s his night at that point.”
Trae Young's driving layup gave the Hawks a 17-15 lead with 6:13 left in the period but they would not score again in the period. They missed eight shots, had three more blocked and turned the ball over three times while Milwaukee rattled off 18 unanswered points to take a 33-17 lead into the second.
The Hawks’ scoring drought finally ended when Young sank a pair of free throws in the opening minute of the quarter. Parker knocked down a 20-footer moments later and added 13 more in the quarter to go into halftime with 25, two points off his season high.
Down by as many as 17 in the quarter, The Hawks rallied back late and went into the locker room down just one, 60-59, after Young's second 3-pointer of the night beat the buzzer.
Throughout their losing streak, the Hawks have been doomed by poor third-quarter showings. And while they were far from spectacular this time -- the Hawks went 9-of-23 from the floor and 2-for-11 from 3-point distance -- they held Milwaukee to 9-of-21 shooting, including just one 3-pointer in seven attempts.
Parker added six more points in the third as the Hawks used a 10-2 run to take a 70-66 lead and they held an 82-81 lead heading into the final quarter.
“Our guys stuck to the game plan,” Pierce said. “We knew Giannis (Antetokounmpo) was going to get into the paint in score ... but when he collapses and their 3-point shooters get uncontested, that's when things get tough.”
Milwaukee regained the lead seconds into the period on a jumper by Donte DeVincenczo and stretched the lead to five when Eric Bledsoe converted a three-point play with 7:49 to play.
De'Andre Hunter's 3-pointer moments later made it a one-possession game again and while the Hawks would hang close, they weren't able to close the gap. Milwaukee, getting contributions from seven different players in the quarter, slowly pulled away and went up by 10 when DeVincenczo made two free throws with 1:44 to play.
After getting off to such a strong start, Parker was held to just two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the final quarter.
“I have to have that same type of productivity,” Parker said. “I know what I'm capable of doing and I need to get it when it matters.”
Young had a big night, too, hitting 12 of 24 shots (including 3 of 7 3-point attempts) to finish with 29 points. De'Andre Hunter and Damian Jones added 10 points apiece.
“Tough night,” Pierce said. “I thought our guys competed for all 48 minutes. To battle back in this place, in this environment against this team and take the lead back in the third quarter ... I'm really proud of the guys tonight.”
Milwaukee got 30 points and 10 rebounds from Antetokounmpo while Khris Middleton, who returned after a seven-game absence, added 16.
By the numbers
0 -- The number of free throws the Hawks attempted during the decisive final quarter while Milwaukee went 8-of-11 from the line.
“We have a pretty good group but we have to keep building because we don't want to let this get too out of hand. We can let it get to 4-20 if we don't sneak a win here pretty soon. We're so far behind (in the standings). We have to sneak (a victory) from anybody at this point just to get started.” -- The Hawks’ Jabari Parker on coming close against one of the best teams in the league.
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