Budenholzer's Bucks look to down Hawks again
Mike Budenholzer's new team has not been kind to his old team.
Budenholzer, in his first season as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, has dominated his former club, the Atlanta Hawks. The teams meet for the third time Sunday in Atlanta.
The Bucks won the first meeting in Milwaukee 144-112 and trounced the Hawks 133-114 in the rematch in Atlanta. They'll play one more time in Milwaukee on April 7. The Bucks have won six straight games against Atlanta, the first four of those when Budenholzer was completing his five-season stint with the Hawks.
Milwaukee (57-19) is trying to finish the regular season in strong fashion. The Bucks have won four straight games and entered Sunday with a 3 1/2-game lead in the Eastern Conference standings over second-place Toronto.
The Bucks have a legitimate MVP candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averages 27.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and six assists. He scored 33 points in the last game against the Hawks and averages 19.2 against Atlanta in 19 career games.
But Antetokounmpo has been fighting through a right ankle injury that has bothered him the last two weeks. He aggravated the injury in the fourth quarter of Thursday's 128-118 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, while he was on his way to scoring 34 points. Antetokounmpo hurt himself when he fell to the floor after a dunk with 7:46 left, spraining the same ankle he first injured on March 17 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
With the Bucks on the brink of clinching the homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, Antetokounmpo will sit against Atlanta (27-49), which has been eliminated from the playoffs, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday morning.
From here until the end of the season, Antetokounmpo likely will be on a game-to-game basis to allow him to heal for the playoffs -- even if that doesn't make the star happy.
"Usually when you sprain your ankle, you stay out for two, three, four games," Antetokounmpo said. "But I don't like missing games. I've got to work through it while playing. I'll be ready to play until coach tells me not to play."
Budenholzer said, "I think we all are hoping he can push through and be healthy going forward. We'll see how he's feeling and either bring out the bubble wrap or keep playing."
Atlanta had its three-game winning streak broken on Friday when Portland drubbed them 118-98. It was only the second time the Hawks have been held to fewer than 100 points since the All-Star Game.
The Hawks have been led by the scoring of point guard Trae Young, who scored 26 against the Trail Blazers and is averaging 30.3 points over his last three games. Young's 3-pointer in the game gave him 150 for the season and made him only the 12th rookie to reach the mark. On Friday night, Young moved past Dominique Wilkins and John Drew into second place on the club's rookie scoring list.
But Young scored 18 of his points against Portland in the first quarter and went cold, like the rest of the team. Atlanta shot 40.4 percent from the floor and only 23.7 percent on 3-pointers.
"Shots weren't falling," Young said. "We usually hit a little bit more. I didn't shoot the ball well. I started off early but my shots weren't going in after that first quarter."
The Bucks will again be without Tony Snell, who has missed two straight games with a left ankle sprain. Atlanta is expected to again be without Taurean Prince, who is dealing with foot soreness, but Alex Len should be back after sitting out Friday's game with soreness.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 31, 2019