The Milwaukee Bucks earned a 120-109 road win over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday at State Farm Arena.
Reigning back-to-back NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to the court after missing six straight games with left knee soreness. He had 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, five rebounds and three steals in 25 minutes.
Hawks point guard and leading scorer Trae Young returned after missing two games with a bruised left calf. He went scoreless in the first half before finishing the game with 15 points on 3-of-17 shooting.
Milwaukee used a 16-2 run that spanned the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth to help turn a slight 82-80 edge into a 98-82 lead. The Bucks never led by fewer than eight points for the remainder of the game.
The Bucks clearly won the battle of the second units on this night, with Milwaukee reserves scoring 44 points to Atlanta bench players' 16. Seven Bucks scored in double digits, led by Jrue Holiday's 23.
The Hawks remained without John Collins (left ankle sprain), De'Andre Hunter (right knee soreness) and Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness). Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic paced all scorers with 28 points (10-of-20 overall, 6-of-12 three-point shooting).
The 35-20 Bucks have won three straight games, and the 30-26 Hawks' three-game win streak ended with the defeat.
Bucks F Giannis Antetokounmpo: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals
Bucks G/F Khris Middleton: 10 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists
Bucks G Jrue Holiday: 23 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds
Bucks C Brook Lopez: 19 points, 12 rebounds
Hawks G Trae Young: 15 points, 9 assists
Hawks C Clint Capela: 16 points, 16 rebounds
Hawks G Bogdan Bogdanovic: 28 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds
Hawks F Kevin Huerter: 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Giannis Returns, Bucks Roll
Antetokounmpo didn't post gaudy statistics in his return as he usually does, but the Bucks still cruised en route to a fairly comfortable 11-point road win.
The two-time NBA MVP didn't look particularly rusty, though, like when he took just two dribbles from half court to the hoop for an early layup:
Giannis hit his first three shots, including this slithering layup between Hawks forward Solomon Hill and big man Clint Capela:
Giannis did some work outside of the paint, though, as he knocked down a three-pointer with Hill in his face:
Antetokounmpo didn't put the team on his back, but he didn't need to on this night with the Bucks' second unit doing so well.
He only played 25 minutes in his return and was able to rest at the end of the game with the game well in the Bucks' control.
Overall, the night couldn't have gone much better for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks as they welcomed back their superstar en route to making a run at the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.
Young, Hawks' Second Unit Struggle in Defeat
Young's return to the court did not go as well as Antetokounmpo's, as he missed all six of his first-half field goals and didn't score until there was 6:40 remaining in the third quarter.
It appeared that bucket, which preceded a free throw to complete a three-point play, would result in Young turning his game around. He eventually scored nine points in a 3:09 span to help pull the Hawks within 82-80 late in the third quarter.
That wasn't meant to be, though. Young's shot didn't fall, and turnovers were a consistent problem, with the ex-Oklahoma star committing six on the night.
It's not too much to be concerned about. Sure, Young struggled, but he also missed five shots within 12 feet of the hoop in the first half and eight overall. He's simply not going 0-for-whatever on most nights from that distance.
Off the bench, the Hawks' reserves could not get much going.
Hawks guard Lou Williams finished with a minus-27. Nathan Knight missed all five of his field goals, and Brandon Goodwin played 10 scoreless minutes. Rookie center Onyeka Okongwu scored eight points in nine minutes, but he also had three fouls. The Bucks outscored the Hawks by at least 10 points with each of those players on the floor.
On the other end, the Bucks reserves were menaces all night, with Pat Connaughton notably finishing at plus-21 and Jeff Teague ending at plus-18. Those two plus Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker, who made up the four primary Bucks reserves, combined for 44 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists.
It wasn't a good night for the Hawks, but they can take solace in the fact that they're still 16-6 under head coach Nate MacMillan and a likely shoo-in for the Eastern Conference playoffs thanks to their efforts over the past few months following a 14-20 start.
Milwaukee will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday in Fiserv Forum at 9 p.m. ET. Atlanta will welcome the Indiana Pacers into town on Sunday at 1 p.m.