Atlanta - It's a tiresome refrain for the Milwaukee Bucks .
Play well for two or three quarters but bomb out at a certain point in the game.
It happened again Friday night at the worst time, as the Bucks watched an 11-point lead vanish in the fourth quarter and the Atlanta Hawks escaped with a 99-94 victory at Philips Arena.
And it hurt even more because the Hawks did most of their damage with their shock troops, featuring Jannero Pargo, Vladimir Radmanovic, Ivan Johnson and NBA old-timers Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse.
Radmanovic hit the decisive shot, a tie-breaking three-pointer that gave the Hawks a 97-94 lead with 11.9 seconds left.
It came after Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova tipped in his own miss to tie the score at 94 with 33.2 seconds remaining.
"It's tough," said Bucks center Drew Gooden. "We've been working hard; we've been trying to stay together and we're going to continue to do that.
"I think the ball will fall our way eventually." Pargo scored all 11 of his points in the final quarter and Radmanovic had all nine of his points as the Hawks outscored the Bucks , 34-18. That was enough to erase a 76-65 Bucks lead entering the final period.
"We had a stretch where we didn't scramble back on defense well enough," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. "Then Pargo got it going a little bit and we had a hard time recovering from it. It was one of those games again where we couldn't make the big play and they did." Brandon Jennings, fighting off a case of food poisoning he picked up in Boston, scored 34 points and added nine assists to pace the Bucks (14-22). Jennings hit 5 of 8 threepoint attempts and 10 of 23 shots overall. Gooden had 26 points and 10 rebounds.
"He (Radmanovic) hit a big shot," Jennings said. "I think it's a lucky shot. Ers (Ilyasova) closed out really well, man, and he just hit a lucky shot.
"We've got a short roster right now. The guys who are in there are trying to play hard for 48 minutes. It's hard to play 48 minutes when you don't have a lot of subs." Jennings played 43 minutes and Carlos Delfino played 42 as Skiles went with a seven-man rotation, for the most part, featuring Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Beno Udrih off the bench.
The Hawks were playing without injured allstar guard Joe Johnson, out with knee tendinitis, and Al Horford, who is out with a long-term injury after undergoing surgery. Forward Josh Smith had a double-double at halftime even though the Hawks trailed, 51-39, and he finished with 24 points and 19 rebounds.
The Bucks led by as many as 15 early in the third period.
But the Hawks' bench provided a major boost as Atlanta (21-15) saved the starters' legs for their matchup against Oklahoma City on Saturday night. The reserves produced 39 points and 19 rebounds, including 11 rebounds from McGrady. "I thought our bench did just a phenomenal job," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "The energy was unbelievable, and I was going to ride those guys to the very end." For the Bucks it was another night of frustration after it started in such promising fashion.
The Bucks called a timeout after Radmanovic's tiebreaking three and inbounded the ball directly to Gooden, who was posting up on the block.
But no foul was called as he put up a shot and the Bucks had to foul Stackhouse, who made two clinching free throws with 6.1 seconds left.
"That's what I was trying to go for, a three-point play," Gooden said. "But unfortunately I didn't get the call." The Bucks were just 4 of 17 from the field in the final quarter while the Hawks hit 13 of 24 shots.
"We've played a game like tonight many times this year, where we've played well enough to build decent leads," Skiles said.
"We have a hard time closing teams out and it happened again tonight." Pargo also played tough defense on Jennings in the final quarter, when the Bucks guard shot 1 of 5 and was limited to five points.
"I say it all the time, Pargo is a pit bull on defense," Smith said.
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Copyright, 2012, Journal Sentinel, All Rights Reserved.