MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo has become one of the hottest young stars in the NBA because of his ability to do just about everything on the basketball court.
And Friday night, he did.
Antetokounmpo slammed home a thundering windmill dunk early, finished with 34 points and capped his night with a game-saving interception of an errant outlet pass from the sideline that ultimately locked down the Milwaukee Bucks’ 100-97 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at the Bradley Center.
“Giannis is selfless,” said Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon, who had 14 points and seven assists. “That’s why this team has been able to come together and make the run we’re making. We follow his lead every night. It speaks to his character and his leadership.”
Antetokounmpo paced Milwaukee’s offense with another monster game. He hit 13 of 22 shots from the field and added 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocked shots in 35 minutes.
That output, along with a double-double off the bench from Greg Monroe with 14 points and Tony Snell with 13, helped make up for a rare off night by Khris Middleton, who went 1 of 13 from the field, missed all four of his 3-point attempts and finished with just six points.
“This team is deep,” Brogdon said. “That’s one of our biggest strengths. … Khris isn’t going to be able to give us 20 every single night. He’s going to have off nights. He’s going to be back next game, back to his regular self.”
Three players scored at least 20 points for the Hawks, who saw their losing streak stretch to six games.
Dennis Schroder led the way, hitting 11 of 25 shots for 28 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 25 and Dwight Howard notched his 47th double-double of the year with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
But the Hawks (37-35) shot just 41 percent from the floor and gave up 23 points on 17 turnovers.
“We just have to make a few more winning plays,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Still, they had a chance to win it at the end.
After trailing by five with five minutes to go, Atlanta took a 92-90 lead on Hardaway’s driving layup with 2:41 left. But the Hawks gpt only one more field goal after that.
“Bonehead plays at the end of the game,” Hardaway said. “We’ve just got to come down. We’ll be fine. As long as we’re out competing for the full 48 (minutes), one or two plays here or there, we’ll be able to pull some of these wins out.”
Antetokounmpo got Milwaukee off to a strong start with 17 points in the first quarter.
The Hawks shot 33 percent from the field in the first quarter but went 10 of 18 in the second quarter and the Bucks missed seven of their eight 3-point attempts to make it 45-43 at halftime.
A back-and-forth third quarter saw the Hawks go two heading into the fourth quarter, but the Bucks answered with a 16-5 run that gave them an 88-84 lead with 5:53 to play.
After Atlanta rallied to go back in front, Brogdon tied the score with a floater and Antetokounmpo put the Bucks ahead with a finger roll.
Hardaway tied the score again on two free throws with 1:16 left and then stuffed Middleton at the other end, setting the stage for Antetokounmpo’s big moment.
Hardaway tipped the ball to Howard, who attempted to throw it up the court. But it was deflected toward the Bucks’ bench and Antetokounmpo charged, leaping to knock it back into play.
The ball landed in the hands of Brogdon, who found Monroe down low for a layup that put Milwaukee up 96-94 with 40 seconds left.
“Go-go gadget,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “A lot of guys couldn’t do what he did, but he used his length very well and gave us another offensive opportunity.”
Schroder tied the score once more with Atlanta’s last field goal, but another Monroe layup put the Bucks in front for good and Middleton closed it out with two free throws.
NOTES: The victory moved Milwaukee into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, though the Hawks, by virtue of a 3-1 record in the season series, hold the tie-breaker. But the Bucks did gain ground on Indiana and Detroit, the East’s seventh and eighth-place squads. … F Paul Millsap and SG Kent Bazemore were unavailable for the Hawks. Millsap has missed the last five games and Bazemore the last three, both with knee injuries. … Bucks F John Henson was unavailable due to a wrist injury but Michael Beasley, out with a hyperextended left knee, could return next week, Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.