Bucks rally past Hawks, hobbled Trae Young to take 2-1 ECF lead

·4 min read

The Milwaukee Bucks looked in trouble twice on Sunday after digging holes to start each half against the Atlanta Hawks.

Both times they persevered. 

In a game of runs, the Bucks mounted a pair of rallies and rode a hot Khris Middleton down the stretch to secure a 113-102 Game 3 win over the Hawks. With the win, they took a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

In addition to the loss, the Hawks carry concern from Game 3 about star guard Trae Young, who sprained his right ankle late in the third quarter. He played in the fourth, but was largely ineffective as the Bucks rallied for victory after he returned to the court. He's scheduled for an MRI on Monday, and his status for Game 4 is in doubt. 

Hawks hot early, but Bucks close strong

The Hawks started the game hot, bouncing back from Friday's Game 2 dud to take a 25-10 lead midway through the first quarter in front on an energized home crowd. Young led the charge with a 17-point first-half. But Giannis Antetokounmpo took control of the paint in a 16-point first half to rally Milwaukee to a 56-56 tie at halftime.

The Hawks again opened the half strong in the third quarter as a pair of Young 3-pointers led Atlanta to a 70-63 lead. Young continued to hit and pull up from deep as the Hawks maintained the lead deep into the third quarter. Then Young's fortune took a turn for the worse late in the third.

Trae Young stepped on ref, injured ankle

After throwing an errant pass from the sideline that Bucks forward Bobby Portis intercepted, Young took a step back to get in defensive position. Instead, he stepped on a referees's foot and crumpled to the floor. 

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He left for the locker room with Atlanta leading, 85-82 and was diagnosed with a sprained ankle. His absence was short-lived. Trainers taped up his ankle, and Young returned to the court early in the fourth after his teammates extended the lead to 93-88. From there, the Bucks took over. 

Middleton dominates Hawks in fourth

A pair of Middleton 3-pointers helped the Bucks to a 96-95 lead with 6:14 remaining, and the Bucks wouldn't trail again. While Young managed just three points after his return, Atlanta had no answers for Middleton, who outscored the Hawks by himself 20-17 in the fourth quarter.

The All-Star guard finished with a game-high 38 points alongside 11 rebounds and seven assists. He connected on 15-of-26 field goal attempts, including 6-of-12 from 3-point distance. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks looks to move past Onyeka Okongwu #17 of the Atlanta Hawks during the first half in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals at State Farm Arena on June 27, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Giannis Antetokounmpo took two 3-pointers, but otherwise dominated the paint on Sunday. (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Giannis does damage down low

Besides a pair of 3-point attempts (one air ball, one make) that the Hawks were happy to let him to shoot, Antetokounmpo continued to do most of his damage in the paint. He finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds while connecting on 13-of-21 field goals. Portis chipped in 15 points off the bench and Milwaukee shot 51.1% from the field while controlling the glass with a 50-35 rebounding edge. 

Young once again led the Hawks with 35 points and four assists while shooting 6-of-14 from 3-point distance. But 32 of those points arrived before his ankle injury, as he took an uncharacteristically passive role on offense in the fourth quarter. 

Danilo Gallinari added 18 points off the bench, but the Hawks couldn't muster enough from supporting players John Collins (13 points, eight rebounds), Kevin Huerter (11 points, seven assists) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (eight points, 3-of-16 from the field) to match the Middleton-led rally down the stretch. Collins played just 23 minutes after getting into foul trouble. 

Will Trae Young play in Game 4?

With the win, Milwaukee took back home-court advantage and ramped up pressure for the Hawks to win Tuesday's Game 4 at home to keep the series competitive. Between now and then, all eyes will be on Young's injured ankle. The Hawks guard was non-committal after the game about playing in Game 4.

"I'm going to get as much treatment as I can," Young told reporters. "That's the plan."

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