NBA: Eastern Conference Finals Game 3

Khris Middleton found his shot and it spelled doom for the Atlanta Hawks. Image via Bucks Instagram. (@bucks)

The Milwaukee Bucks found their dominance in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They were able to shut the Atlanta Hawks down in every facet of the game. It should come as no surprise the Hawks would find their fight in Game 3. How the Bucks closed out this 113-102 victory, is a (pleasant) surprise.

From the start, Atalanta just seemed to be a step ahead of the Milwaukee. Hawks raced out to a double-digit lead, on the back of three straight miscues by the Bucks. Milwaukee didn’t fold and managed to reel Atlanta back in to a single-digit lead.

Milwaukee couldn’t quite get over that hump. They went into the half, tied at 56. Good news considering how the game began,

The Bucks stayed within striking distance until the fourth quarter, where they grabbed their first lead. Old habits (turnovers, ISO-ball, retreating on the pick-and-roll) would cause that lead to morph into a 95-88 deficit. Enter Khris Middleton.

Middleton, who was 12-of-36 from the field in Games 1 and 2 combined, found his shot. This would spell doom for the Hawks. The Bucks continued to dig in on defense and fed Middleton on offense.

When the smoke cleared, the final buzzard sounded, and Middleton holstered his shot, he’d torched Atlanta for 20 fourth quarter points. The Hawks only put up 17 points as a team in the fourth quarter. Khris the closer, closes out the Hawks and secured a 2-1 series lead for the Bucks.

In playoffs past, the Bucks crumbled in a game like this. Adversity to start, no-calls from officials, momentum surging the way of their opponents. This version of the Bucks isn’t fragile. They looked all those challenges in the eye and conquered them.

Atlanta’s season is effectively on the line in Game 4, Tuesday night. Milwaukee must realize this and squash any hopes this young Hawks squad has. In short: don’t play with your food.

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