MILWAUKEE (AP)—Andrew Bogut is finally turning into the low-post presence the Bucks desperately needed.
Bogut, the former No. 1 pick in his third season, continued his recent tear with 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots and Milwaukee beat cold-shooting Atlanta 87-80 on Wednesday night.
Bogut’s recent surge in production came after several meetings with coach Larry Krystkowiak, which led to more plays for him in the offense.
“They said they were going to get the ball into me a bit more. It’s definitely good to hear a coach say that, it gives you confidence,” Bogut said. “If I take 20 shots, I’m pretty sure I’ll make 50 percent of them or more, so the more shots, the better.”
Bogut was 8-of-14 from the field against the Hawks and had 14 points in the second half.
“We’ve gotten a little more creative with ways to get him the basketball. I think early in the season it’s one thing to talk about, ‘Hey, let’s throw the ball inside and give Andrew an opportunity early in the season,”’ Krystkowiak said. “Shame on me for doing so—if he didn’t produce the first two or three times down the floor, often times we’d go to another option.”
The Hawks, losers of 18 of their last 20 in Milwaukee, had no more options after failing to hit a field goal for more than 12 minutes spanning the third and fourth quarters, missing 13 straight shots before Anthony Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 1:04 left.
“We struggled in the fourth quarter big time, especially offensively,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “We had some breakdowns defensively coming down the stretch and we just didn’t get it done.”
It was a sweet homecoming for the Bucks, who lost all three on a short West Coast trip and were without Mo Williams, their second leading scorer, out with flu-like symptoms.
They were also outscored 25-2 on fast-break opportunities, but it didn’t matter because of Atlanta’s dismal shooting performance. Atlanta, which was 44 percent from the field through three quarters, fell to 36 percent for the game after going 2-for-17 from the field in the fourth.
“Milwaukee did a great job on us in the fourth,” said Marvin Williams, selected second after Bogut in the 2005 draft. “They were really locked in defensively. We just weren’t able to hit any shots.”
Williams, who scored 22 points, tied the game at 74-all on two free throws with four minutes left before the Bucks went on a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer by Charlie Bell, a layup by Charlie Villanueva and a jumper by Royal Ivey, who replaced Mo Williams in the lineup.
Johnson hit a 3 with 1:04 to play to make it 81-77, Marvin Williams added a 3-point play to make it 83-80 with 34 seconds and Johnson had a chance to tie it after Ivey turned it over in the backcourt.
But Johnson stepped out of bounds trying to line up a tying 3-pointer, and Bogut, who has averaged 21.8 points and 10.5 rebounds over his last four games, sealed the game on a dunk off Bobby Simmons’ inbounds pass.
“He’s been playing real, real good basketball, fundamentally sound. He’s being aggressive, he’s confident and we’re going to him in the post,” Ivey said. “That’s what we need, the inside presence, and he’s bringing that every game.”
Ivey, who signed with Milwaukee this offseason after playing his first three years in Atlanta, had nine points, eight rebounds and six assists. He said he learned he’d start earlier Wednesday morning.
“I had to get mentally prepared when I went home. That’s what I did, I said I’m just going to play hard, do what I do and help my team win,” Ivey said. “Those are my guys down there, and I just wanted to have a good showing, I wanted a win.”
“It’s hard to win when you’re not able to make those shots in close games. We can look back and figure out what we did wrong,” Smith said. “This was a winnable game.”
Michael Redd had 17 points and rookie Yi Jianlian scored 16 points and had nine rebounds. Villanueva also had 10 points and nine rebounds. … Yi received his Eastern Conference rookie of the month trophy before the game for his play in December. Yi is averaging 10.2 points and 5.9 rebounds so far this season. … Atlanta has not topped 100 points on the road this season.