The Bucks entered Sunday night’s contest against the Hawks fresh off a 34-point victory in the game prior. They had completely embarrassed their opponent, and it was unclear how Atlanta would respond.
Back on home court for the first time since June 18, the Hawks jumped out to an early lead, up by as many as 15 points. But the Bucks evened the score by the halftime break and then dominated the fourth quarter behind the efforts of Khris Middleton to capture a 113–102 victory.
Here are three takeaways from Game 3.
Khris Middleton was sensational
Through the first two games of this series, Middleton had been fairly quiet. He only managed 15 points in both contests, with just two three-pointers to show for 16 tries from deep. Sunday night was a much different story, however. Simply put, Middleton was sensational.
Middleton outdid his prior two showings through three quarters alone, entering the final frame with 18 points; his night was just getting started.
The two-time All-Star and future Olympian went on to score 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting in the fourth, proving hotter than the scorching summer heat in Atlanta on Sunday. He drained four three-pointers as he single handedly outscored the Hawks, who as an entire team only managed 17 points in the period.
Middleton finished the evening with 38 points—tying his playoff career high—along with 11 rebounds and seven assists to carry the Bucks to victory.
Trae Young tweaked his ankle
Through three quarters of play, Young had dazzled for the Hawks.
After a poor performance in Game 2, he was back to his confident, shimmying self out of the gates as he easily knocked down six of his first seven shots from the field. The point guard toyed with the Bucks defense, making logo three-pointers look as easy as layups and having his way with his signature floater through most of the evening.
But with less than 30 seconds left in the third quarter, Young accidentally stepped on an official’s foot and tweaked his ankle. He exited the game and went back to the locker room, at that point with 32 points on 11-for-19 shooting and the Hawks up 85–82.
Young was deemed available with a right ankle sprain and reentered the game to the roar of the Atlanta crowd with under nine minutes left. But he was clearly uncomfortable, at times grimacing in pain, and didn’t finish the game.
The injury had a huge impact in the game as the Bucks outscored the Hawks 31–17 following his initial exit. Young said in his press conference after the game that he will be getting an MRI on the ankle and hopes to play in Game 4, so this will certainly be something to watch in the coming days. The Hawks were already underdogs in this series, as they have been throughout the playoffs, and they don’t stand much of a chance of pulling off the series upset without their star player fully healthy.
The Bucks continue to rule the paint
Playing to their strengths, the Bucks have completely dominated the interior throughout this series. They scored 132 points in the paint, to just 84 from the Hawks, through the first two games, and that trend only continued Sunday night.
Though it scored less there than in each of the first two contests, Milwaukee once again had the advantage inside in Game 3, outscoring the Hawks in the paint 56-34. In typical fashion, Giannis Antetokounmpo led the charge on the interior, using his length to punish the Hawks defense. He finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds.
Much in part to their play on the interior, the Bucks shot over 50% from the field for the second straight game. Combined with 11 made three-pointers, the Hawks had no answer. If they want to keep the series alive, they’ll need to find one in Game 4.
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