There’s a specific part in disaster movies where things go haywire, where everything is fine and then all of a sudden everything is not fine.
In movies that involve any type of super storm, it’s when clear skies begin to turn dark and the peaceful silence is broken by the sound of ferocious thunder, accompanied by ominous music.
In the disaster movie that was Game 2 of the Atlanta Hawks versus the Milwaukee Bucks, that part was the second quarter. At least for the Hawks.
Entering the second, it was all good in the hood for the Hawks, down only six to the Bucks. That kind of deficit is basically nothing to Atlanta, a team that—look away, Sixers fans—have successfully erased leads ranging from 18 to 26.
They had the privilege of resting Trae Young and John Collins to start the quarter, knowing that the Bucks’ lead is only two Kevin Huerter 3s away from vanishing (or three Lou Williams’ mid-range jumpers).
But the very first possession of the quarter saw Huerter throwing the ball away into the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo. That turnover was a bad sign, the first warning of a looming disastrous run for the Hawks.
As Giannis stole the ball under the basket, he stormed towards the opposite end and, in the freakiest manner only Giannis can do, took only three dribbles before finishing a layup.
That miscue was the Hawks’ first of many in a stretch where the Bucks just locked in on defense. They consistently hijacked the passing lanes and aggressively disrupted the flow of the Hawks’ offense.
When Young and Collins re-entered the game, the Bucks’ lead had doubled, but still manageable. In the halfway mark of the quarter, Young walked into a long jumper to cut the lead down to 13.
Then came a chaotic montage of Hawks turnovers, Jrue Holiday drives, more Hawks turnovers, and Hawks missed shots. The Bucks’ lead went up to 17 points, five minutes left. Then 24. More rain. Lead was 26, three minutes left. Then 29. Thunder. Then 31.
In that five-minute stretch of torrential downpour, the Bucks scored 20 straight points. The Hawks, on the other hand, had absolutely nothing. No shimmy, no lobs, no buckets.
Trae missed his first five 3s, but got to hit one with less than a minute left in the second. By then, the damage had been done. The Bucks were already up by 29 points.
That was the whole story of Game 2, summed up in a quick second quarter storm that was dominant for Milwaukee and disastrous for Atlanta. The Hawks were just too careless with the ball, too risky with the passes. It was as if they were testing the Bucks and baiting them into showing up. Well, the Bucks bit and showed up.
The Bucks scored 43 points in that quarter compared to the Hawks’ 17.
In the final possession, Bucks center Brook Lopez—who played a key role in the dominance—heaved a halfcourt shot to beat the halftime clock. The shot was on line and hit the backboard, but bounced off the rim. The Bucks laughed at that and celebrated the fact that they almost ended the first half with a 35-point lead.
They high-fived each other as they made their way to the tunnel, as if they had already won the game. They kind of did.