Vivlamore reporting from Milwaukee. Here is my updated game story, with quotes, from the Hawks’ 108-101 loss to the Bucks Tuesday night.
MILWAUKEE — The Hawks were wary of Monta Ellis — and for good reason.
Ellis scored a game-high 33 points, including 17 in the decisive fourth quarter, to do in the Hawks Tuesday night. The guard, acquired at the trade deadline from the Warriors, was too much for the Hawks down the stretch en route to a 108-101 victory at the Bradley Center.
Hawks coach Larry Drew was worried about Ellis before the game. He might have nightmares about him after the showing.
“He is pretty good,” Drew said. “He got into a roll. He got into a rhythm. He was making shots. He is a good player. We tried a couple different things but he just got into a zone there.”
Ellis hit 7 of 9 shots in the fourth quarter, including the Bucks’ first six points, as they erased a three-point deficit and broke open a close game.
“We let him get into a rhythm and he is a scorer,” said Hawks guard Joe Johnson, who missed most of the first quarter to get five stitches inside his lip. “In this league, if you let scorers get into a rhythm they will pick you a part all night long. I thought down the stretch, individual defense just wasn’t that great.”
The Hawks (30-21) had a four-game win streak snapped and lost for only the second time in the past eight games. They dropped to 28-4 when scoring 90 or more points. Josh Smith led the Hawks with 30 points and 18 rebounds, including 15 points in the second quarter for his 24th double-double this season. Ivan Johnson had 17 points, hitting all seven of his field-goal attempts, including a 3-pointer. Jeff Teague had 15 points, Marvin Williams and Johnson had 11 and Kirk Hinrich had 10 to round out the double-figure scorers.
The Bucks (23-27), fighting for a playoff spot, snapped a two-game losing streak while playing their fifth game in six days. They also received 18 points from Brandon Jennings and 16 points from Drew Gooden.
As much as Ellis hurt the Hawks, they can point to turnovers as their true killer. The Hawks turned the ball over 22 times – 10 in the first quarter and three crucial times in the fourth quarter. Teague had seven turnovers.
“It wasn’t them scoring baskets, it was us taking care of the ball,” Teague said. “I put a lot of that on me. We had a lot of turnovers early and key turnovers late. I had a lot of those. That was the difference tonight.”
The Hawks entered the game fifth in the NBA in fewest turnovers per game at 13.98. Drew said his team “shot ourselves in the foot” with the carelessness.
“We can’t expect to win a game, especially on the road, if we are going to turn the basketball over at that rate,” Drew said.
The Hawks used a 17-4 run to close the third quarter, erasing an eight-point halftime deficit, and took a 79-78 lead. Teague’s short jumper with 8.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave the Hawks their first lead since they led 17-16 with 5:46 remaining in the first quarter. Six different Hawks scored during the third-quarter run.
Then Ellis took over.
The Bucks jumped on the Hawks midway through the opening quarter. They ended the period on a 15-6 run to take an eight-point lead at 31-25. The Bucks shot 53.8 percent in the first quarter with Ellis leading the way with 10 points.
The Hawks, by stark contrast, shot only 39.1 percent from the field and committed 10 turnovers. Johnson played only the opening two minutes, 18 seconds of the first quarter after leaving to get stitches inside his lip when he collided with teammate Zaza Pachulia. He returned early in the second quarter.
The Bucks built a 17-point lead in the second quarter before Smith caught fire. Smith was accessed a technical foul early in the period after shouting “And one” to an official after scoring an inside basket in which he thought he was fouled.
Smith, who scored only two points in the first quarter, had 17 points at the half. He scored 13 of the Hawks’ final 17 points of the second quarter — including the final nine — to trim the disadvantage back to nine points at the intermission, 55-46.
“I was trying to be efficient and get some stuff to the basket,” Smith said. “Then, I was able to recognize what I was doing wrong on my jump shot and I was able to correct it.”
The Hawks were playing their fourth game in five days — including Sunday’s four-overtime thrilling win over the Jazz. They return home Wednesday to host the Bulls.
It will be a short turnaround to forget the damage done by Ellis, who scored just four points Monday in a loss to the Knicks.
“We were looking at different matchups,” Drew said. “We were just trying to give him a different look. We didn’t want him to get comfortable with the same guy guarding him. We do that quite often to try to take a guy out of his rhythm, out of his timing. Tonight, it didn’t work.”