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Bucks dominate from opening tip, win by 36, even series with Hawks

For Milwaukee, Game 2 was the Bizarro Game 1.

Everything that went wrong for Milwaukee in Game 1 — Trae Young going off, Bucks shooters missing from three, a lot of little defensive lapses — flipped on its head and could not have gone better for the Bucks on Friday night.

Young shot just 1-of-8 from three, and in a sweet little adjustment whichever Bucks defender closed out on Young (usually Jrue Holiday) just kept going on a run-out, and the missed three became a touchdown pass to a wide-open receiver for an easy two on the other end.

The Bucks were running through all of the game that mattered because the Hawks turned the ball over 13 times in the first half alone, seven of those by Young. Plus, Milwaukee could not miss early, shooing 64.6% shooting overall in the first half and 10-of-18 on 3-pointers.

All those first-half stats are because the game was over at halftime — the Bucks led by 32, 77-45.

In the end, it ended 125-91 Bucks. That evens the series at 1-1 as it heads to Atlanta for Game 3 on Sunday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, and six assists, plus he could ice his knees the entire fourth quarter of this blowout. Jrue Holiday finished with 22 points and seven assists, Khris Middleton scored 15 points with seven rebounds and eight assists, and Brook Lopez scored 16 points.

For the Bucks, this was a confidence boost after a Game 1 they felt they let slip away. Milwaukee upped its game and intensity, valued every possession, and with that everything broke their way.

For the Hawks, this is a game to flush and move on. Of course, there are some adjustments to make, but everything has to start with playing with more intensity and focus, and taking care of the ball.

The first half was a beatdown in every sense.

Milwaukee came out more aggressive, and they attacked the rim — 38 points in the paint in the first half alone. Antetokounmpo had 17 first-quarter points and got seven buckets right at the rim, including this insane switch of hands.

Then there were the Atlanta turnovers, which allowed Milwaukee to get 20 first-half fast break points.

The Bucks made adjustments and played far more disciplined than in Game 1. Milwaukee kept its drop coverage but brought Lopez out a little higher and switched everything off the ball, and that worked. On offense, the Bucks were more targeted going after mismatches, particularly going at Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari when they were on the court.

Pretty quickly, the Xs and Os of this game didn’t matter; the Bucks had the momentum and steamrolled the Hawks, using a 20-0 run in the second quarter to turn this into a laugher.

Milwaukee looked every bit the series favorites in Game 2. Young and Atlanta have been resilient all through this postseason, but this is going to be another level of challenge.