The Milwaukee Bucks knew the key to tying the Eastern Conference finals was making sure Trae Young didn’t take over again.
They did all that and more Friday night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 25 points, Jrue Holiday added 22 and the Bucks blew out the Atlanta Hawks 125-91 in Game 2.
Young struggled for much of the night after finishing with 48 points and 11 assists in the Hawks’ 116-113 Game 1 victory.
“Last game he was living in the paint, had a lot of floaters (and) those are pretty much layups for him,” Holiday said. “We didn’t really want that to get him started early. And I don’t think he went to the free throw line much tonight, which is also pretty big for us.”
Young scored 15 points but matched a career worst with nine turnovers before leaving the game for good with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter. He shot 6 of 16 overall, 1 of 8 on 3-point attempts and 2 of 3 on free throws.
“I take complete responsibility for what happened tonight,” Young said. “Taking care of the ball is something I’ve got to be better at. I will be better at it. It’s really they just upped their physicality tonight. We’ve got to do the same.”
The Bucks never trailed, scored 20 straight points late in the second quarter and led by at least 30 throughout the second half. Both teams rested their starters for the entire fourth quarter.
This marks the third straight series in which the Hawks lost Game 2 after winning Game 1 on the road. Those Game 2 losses have been decided by a total of 59 points.
The series shifts to Atlanta for Game 3 on Sunday.
“We have to play harder,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “That intensity that they came out with wasn’t a surprise to us. But they showed that there’s another level that we have to get to. They totally just dominated the entire game.”
Young said he didn’t believe the Bucks did anything different schematically to slow him down Friday. He thought the Bucks just played more aggressively and benefited from the way the game was called.
“When they’re aggressive and [officials] don’t call it, nights like tonight happen,” Young said.
Milwaukee was intent on making life difficult for Young two nights after the Bucks blew a seven-point lead in the final four minutes of Game 1. Young’s Game 1 performance had made him the first player ever with at least 45 points and 10 assists in a conference finals game.
Young committed eight turnovers in the first half alone. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton agreed the Bucks’ aggressiveness made a difference.
“That was a huge key from Game 1 to Game 2,” Middleton said. “Game 1, they were able to get whatever they wanted on the court. Trae was getting in the paint, throwing those lobs and getting everybody else involved. Tonight we wanted to set the tone and just make sure they weren’t going to be comfortable.”
Brook Lopez scored 16 points for the Bucks. Middleton had 15 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Antetokounmpo had nine rebounds and six assists.
Danilo Gallinari had 12 points and John Collins and Cam Reddish each added 11 for the Hawks.
Milwaukee pulled ahead in the opening minutes as Antetokounmpo continually got to the rim for easy baskets. The Bucks already owned a double-digit lead before going on a 20-0 run late in the second quarter to break open the game.
“We know what we’ve got to do,” Antetokounmpo said. “Everybody knew we had to come in here and get this game. That’s what we did from the first possession of the game.”
Hawks: Reddish played 17 minutes in his first game action since Feb. 21 due to an Achilles tendon injury. Young had at least 20 points and seven assists in each of the Hawks’ 13 playoff games before Friday. He’s the first player ever to have at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his first 13 career playoff games. ... Reserve forward Nathan Knight went to the locker-room midway through the fourth quarter. Knight had landed on his back after blocking a shot.
Bucks: The Bucks shot 52.1 per cent, the first time they’ve shot over 50 per cent in this post-season. ... Antetokounmpo’s early exit due to the lopsided score resulted in the end of his franchise-record string of six straight games in which he had at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. The last player to collect at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in six straight playoff games was Shaquille O’Neal in 2002. ... The Bucks improved to 12-3 in playoff games at Fiserv Forum.