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Mar 29, 2024 8:35 pm

Confident Hawks take on tall order in Bucks

dejounte murray

The Atlanta Hawks will try to continue their late-season surge on Saturday when they host the Milwaukee Bucks, the team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks have won four straight games, a stretch that includes two wins in four days against the Boston Celtics, the team with the best record in the NBA. Atlanta’s playoff push has come without starters Trae Young, Saddiq Bey and Jalen Johnson and key reserve Onyeka Okongwu, who have dealt with extended or season-ending injuries.

“It’s very emotional, you know,” Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic said after Thursday’s 123-122 overtime win over Boston. “But another game in two days. Milwaukee’s coming to town, another challenge for us, and we’ve got to get ready and forget this as soon as we can.”

Atlanta (34-39) is the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference and has a six-game lead over Brooklyn for the final spot in the play-in round. The winning streak has pulled the Hawks to within one game of the No. 9 Chicago Bulls. Atlanta has its final meeting with the Bulls on Monday in Chicago.

The Hawks continue to ride the offensive punch of Dejounte Murray. He scored a career-high 44 points on Thursday, his fourth 40-point game of the season. Murray scored all of the team’s 11 points in overtime, including the game winner with 0.1 seconds left.

It wasn’t certain Murray would even play against Boston; he was listed as questionable because of a sore back. He wound up playing nearly 47 minutes and took a career-high 44 shots from the field.

“I’m just built for those moments,” Murray said. “I’m a confident guy.”

Murray is averaging 22.7 points, 6.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds for the season and 26.5 points, 9.0 assists and 5.4 rebounds in the 17 games since All-Star guard Young tore a ligament in his left little finger.

“We’re trying to win games and see how high we can get,” Murray said.

The Bucks (46-27) are coming off a 107-100 loss at New Orleans, the first stop on their three-game road trip. Milwaukee has lost two in a row.

“I just thought they played more physical,” Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard said of the Pelicans. “They were the more aggressive team. Usually, the more aggressive team gets rewarded by the whistle. The game favors that team more. They were able to get their hands on the ball, they chased offensive rebounds, they got extra opportunities. They just played a better game than us.”

Milwaukee is trying to hold onto the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks entered Friday with a 1 1/2 game lead over the New York Knicks and a two-game lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Hawks and Bucks have split the first two meetings of the three-game season series, both played in Milwaukee. Atlanta won 127-110 on Oct. 29 and the Bucks prevailed 132-121 on Dec. 2. The teams split four games last season.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo has always been a matchup problem for Atlanta. He is averaging 29 points and 11 rebounds in the two games this year. In 34 career games against Atlanta, he is averaging 22.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

–Field Level Media

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