With six minutes remaining in the third quarter of Monday's game, the Atlanta Hawks led the Milwaukee Bucks by five points, and Kyle Korver was scoreless. With 4:40 remaining in the third, the lead was 16, and Korver had 11. Things escalate quickly in the Highlight Factory these days.
Korver missed his first four shots, all from 3-point range, but finally got unstuck midway through the third. With the shot clock winding down, he took a pitch-back from center Al Horford and stepped into a 30-footer that soared past the outstretched hand of Bucks center and ex-Hawk Zaza Pachulia before finding sweet nylon, getting himself on the board with 5:49 left in the third.
After a missed layup by Milwaukee point guard Michael Carter-Williams, Atlanta pushed the ball up the court, with DeMarre Carroll finding Korver flowing to the left corner. A quick pump-fake allowed a backtracking Buck to breeze past into the crowd, giving Korver a wide-open look at a just-inside-the-line jumper to make it two in a row.
With the sharpshooting All-Star suddenly feeling it, the Hawks again pressed off a Milwaukee miss; this time, Carroll found Korver racing toward him on the right side of the court, which the heady Hawks swingman turned into a dribble handoff that freed Korver for an off-the-catch fading bomb that splashed through for a third straight jumper that got the Philips Arena faithful roaring.
Yet another Bucks miss, this time on a midrange look by Khris Middleton, again allowed the Hawks to race out off the rebound. Korver had already leaked out off the shot and was waiting on the left wing. As point guard Jeff Teague dribbled into the front court, he just angled himself toward Korver, handed it off and watched the long ball fly, barely even disturbing the net as it connected at the 4:44 mark.
All told: four shots, 11 points, 65 seconds. It's not quite Tracy McGrady in 2004, but it ain't a bad way to spend a minute and change.
The blink-and-you'll-miss-it burst took the lid off the basket for Korver, who had gone a pedestrian-by-his-standards 7-for-23 from 3-point land over the previous 4 1/2 games, and not a moment too soon:
Korver on 11-point run: "I just needed one to go in. Then one finally did and I was like 'Let's go.'" #ATLHawks
— Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) March 31, 2015
The mid-third explosion caught the attention of quite a few NBA observers, including a pair of former Bucks:
BTW Kyle Korver can really shoot
— Ekpe Udoh (@EkpeUdoh) March 31, 2015
we hear you Korver, loud and clear.
— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) March 31, 2015
Thankfully, it also caught the attention of the Bucks. Korver wouldn't score another bucket the rest of the way, as Milwaukee responded in kind with an 11-2 run over the ensuing 3 1/2 minutes to draw within two possessions and keep Atlanta from running away and hiding. Unfortunately for Milwaukee fans, though, the offensive troubles that have plagued Jason Kidd's club all season long — and especially since shipping out top scoring guard Brandon Knight at the February trade deadline — reared their ugly head yet again.
The Bucks managed just two points on 1-for-9 shooting in a four-minute, 40-second stretch spanning the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, allowing Atlanta to push its lead back up to a baker's dozen. Milwaukee couldn't string together enough buckets and stops to get any closer than nine from there, as the Hawks kept the Bucks at arm's length and finished off a 101-88 win.
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Do-everything forward Carroll led five Hawks in double-figures with 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 34-plus minutes in the win, which improved the No. 1-seeded Hawks to 56-18 on the season. Mike Budenholzer's squad needs just one more win to tie the franchise record for victories, set back in 1986-87 and matched in 1993-94, and two wins in the final eight games to set a new all-time mark in what's become a season for the ages in Atlanta.
Sophomore wunderkind Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a team-high 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting to go with six rebounds and four assists, while Pachulia chipped in 17 points, 13 boards and three assists for the Bucks, who have now dropped eight of their last 10 games, and 17 of 23 since the All-Star break. The Bucks now sit at 36-38, holding just a 1 1/2-game lead on the Miami Heat for the No. 6 seed in the East — a.k.a., the right to avoid either these Hawks or the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of the playoffs — and, as their coach saw it, they played like a team that didn't seem to feel compelled to fight for a chance at surviving and advancing:
Jason Kidd blasted team after loss to Hawks: "We didn't play hard enough tonight. We had another no-show tonight."
— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) March 31, 2015
Kidd: "We have one or two guys fighting, but at the end of the day you need everybody on the same page. We're not getting that right now."
— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) March 31, 2015
The Bucks don't have a whole lot of time before the playoffs start to find that collective spirit. Perhaps they can take some inspiration from their Monday night opponents, who took a minute out during the third quarter to show them just how quickly your fortunes can change.
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