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Khris Middleton Caught Fire Late To Lead The Bucks To A Game 3 Win In Atlanta

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals was nothing short of a disaster for the Atlanta Hawks, who returned home to State Farm Arena tied at 1-1 with the Bucks after splitting in Milwaukee. Unsurprisingly, Atlanta came out looking to send a message early and did so with some terrific defense and a quick 15-2 run out of the gate as Trae Young, who was dreadful in the Game 2 loss, came out on fire back home.

Atlanta would get the lead up to 25-10, but the Bucks began to steadily reel them in, trailing by just five after the first quarter and got it tied at 56-56 at the half even as the Hawks were 10-of-22 from deep. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way as he so often does, putting his head down and attacking, getting out in transition very well.

Still, Young was out of his mind, hitting a pair of logo threes that sent the Atlanta crowd into pandemonium.

The third quarter saw more of the same from both teams, with Young staying hot and the Bucks never letting them run away from them with steady offense going downhill.

For much of the game, the Hawks were reliant on Young to keep the offense going, which is not unusual, but with a minute to go in the third, Young had disaster strike as he stepped on the foot of a referee and rolled his right ankle, sending him to the locker room to get retaped.

Despite Young’s absence to start the fourth quarter (which happened during his normal rest period), the Hawks were able to extend their lead thanks to some timely contributions from the bench, including Onyeka Okongwu who played some terrific defense on Giannis and had a monster lob finish from Lou Williams to push the Atlanta lead to five.

Young would make his return after four minutes out of the game, moving fine on his ankle which was a welcome sight, and the Hawks went to work on the task of trying to extend their lead. They got it up to seven, but Khris Middleton found his stroke to rally the Bucks quickly into a one-point lead at 96-95.

Trae had the first answer with another deep three, but the Middleton fourth quarter barrage continued with a pair of long-range buckets (one with his foot on the line in the corner) to push Milwaukee into a 101-98 advantage.

From there it was just non-stop buckets from Middleton, who was absolutely out of his mind in the fourth quarter, scoring 20 of his 38 points for the night in the final period.

Young clearly didn’t look quite right as evidenced by the offense rarely running through the superstar in the fourth quarter off the dribble, and without his creation the Hawks offense stagnated down the stretch. On the other side, Middleton and Giannis were able to keep the foot on the gas for Milwaukee, pulling away for a 113-102 win.

Overall, the Bucks closed the game on an extended 25-7 run from when Atlanta took a 95-88 lead with 7:32 to play on the Okongwu lob. The Hawks would pull Young with just under a minute to play and a pair of John Collins missed free throws down 10 put to bed any chances of a furious late rally from Atlanta.

The series now shifts firmly into the control of the Bucks, who showed some impressive resolve in Game 3 given how things started. Giannis and Middleton were the unquestionable stars, combining for 71 points, 22 rebounds, and 11 assists, but they got a big night from Bobby Portis with 15 points off the bench and despite a dismal shooting night for him, Jrue Holiday dished out 12 assists.

On the other side, it was all about Trae Young, who finished with 35 points but just four assists, as the Bucks dared him to shoot Atlanta to a victory. He seemed capable of doing just that for three quarters, but the ankle injury really took away from his ability to carry the load as he had to start the game and the Hawks didn’t have anyone to make up for that absence. Danilo Gallinari did his best in support, with 18 points off the bench, but the lack of a secondary creator was clear down the stretch.

All eyes will be on Young to start Game 4, as his health will determine whether the Hawks have a chance to make this a series again. For now, Milwaukee assumes control with their first lead in the series, swiping homecourt advantage back and will be looking to take a 3-1 lead in Game 4.

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