The host Milwaukee Bucks upped their intensity from the jump, leading wire-to-wire on Friday en route to knotting the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks at one win apiece.
Fresh off a convincing 125-91 victory, the Bucks look to maintain that spirited play when the best-of-seven series shifts to Atlanta for Game 3 on Sunday.
“We came in focused on each possession at a time in Game 2, and we were able to do it together as a team,” said Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who collected 25 points and nine rebounds in three quarters before sitting out the fourth.
Jrue Holiday added 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting from the floor for the third-seeded Bucks.
Brook Lopez scored 16 points and Khris Middleton added 15 points and eight assists for Milwaukee, which effectively put the game on ice with a 20-0 run over a 4:18 span during the second quarter. The Bucks outscored Atlanta by a 43-17 margin in the second to claim a 77-45 lead at halftime.
Milwaukee shot 52.1 percent from the floor and took advantage of 19 turnovers by the fifth-seeded Hawks. The Bucks also made 15 of 41 attempts from 3-point range after sinking just 8 of 36 from beyond the arc Wednesday during a 116-113 loss in the series opener.
“We needed everybody to be more active,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “The guys, they were great.”
Atlanta’s Trae Young finished with a team-high 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the floor, but he also was responsible for nine turnovers.
“That’s all on me. I have to be better at taking care of the ball and just doing a better job of at least giving us a shot and not turning it over way too much,” Young said. “I have to do better and will be better next game.”
Danilo Gallinari scored 12 points off the bench, and John Collins and Cam Reddish collected 11 points apiece as the Hawks fell to 0-3 in Game 2s this postseason.
Atlanta interim coach Nate McMillan tried to put a positive spin on his team’s standing after the first two games of this series.
“Anytime you can go .500 on the road, that’s a good thing — especially in the playoffs,” McMillan said. “We had the opportunity to get two, we got one, so we’re happy with that.
“But there’s another level we have to get to in order to win games and advance. That intensity they came out with wasn’t a surprise to us. They just totally dominated the entire game.”
Young made a jumper to trim Milwaukee’s lead to 51-40 with 6:25 remaining in the second quarter before the Bucks turned the game into a laugher. Holiday scored nine points and Lopez added seven as Milwaukee erupted for 20 straight points to claim a 71-40 lead with 2:07 to play.
Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton added his third 3-pointer in as many attempts to cap the scoring in the third quarter. Jordan Nwora’s layup early in the fourth pushed the Bucks’ lead to a game-high 41 points at 105-64.
“Just build off tonight,” Connaughton said, when asked how to keep the momentum going.
“There are still things that we can still do a little bit better. We learned from our mistakes from Game 1, we carried over our gameplan to Game 2, and now we need to do the same thing to Game 3.”
Antetokounmpo highlighted his nine-point performance in the first quarter with a scintillating spin move around Solomon Hill before converting a finger-roll layup. Milwaukee made 7 of 12 shots from 3-point range to claim a 34-28 lead after the first quarter.
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