Hawks coach Larry Drew said he remained calm when his team trailed Milwaukee by 14 points at halftime.
When the deficit grew to 19 in the first minute of the second half, Drew wasn't as civil as he called a quick timeout and revealed later, "Some things were said in the huddle."
The Hawks responded to Drew's stern message with 12 consecutive points and then used a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to take the lead and beat the Bucks 109-104 Friday night as Jeff Teague and Josh Smith each scored 24 points.
"They responded," Drew said. "It's unfortunate it had to come to that."
Atlanta moved one-half game ahead of Chicago for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Monta Ellis led Milwaukee with 27 points and a career-high 17 assists, and Ersan Ilyasova scored 25 points while shooting 6 for 8 on 3-pointers.
Ellis made a 3 with 17.8 seconds remaining to cut Atlanta's lead to 105-102. Al Horford, who had 18 points and 17 rebounds, made two free throws to push the lead to five points.
"We knew we would come back," said Devin Harris, who scored 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter. "We've just got to do a better job of playing a four-quarter game."
Asked if Drew's language in the timeout was more colorful than usual, Harris said, "pretty much."
"He just wanted to set the tone," Harris said. "He did a good job of getting everybody on the same page."
Horford said the timeout "kind of woke us up and we started to play better."
The Hawks, who trailed 59-40 in the opening minute of the second half, finally pulled even at 92-all on a drive by Teague with 5:18 remaining. Teague then set up Horford with an alley-oop layup for Atlanta's first lead since the opening period. A jam by Horford and a layup by Smith capped the 13-0 run.
The Bucks held out two injured starters, guard Brandon Jennings and center Larry Sanders. Jennings left in the first half of Wednesday night's 113-103 overtime loss at Orlando with a sore left Achilles and didn't return. Sanders had a sore lower back after taking a hard fall against the Magic.
The Bucks reported forward Marquis Daniels suffered a lower leg injury in the second half. The team provided no details on the injury.
Ellis directed the offense while taking the point guard duties normally held by Jennings.
"Any time we've called on Monta to do any variety of things he's always risen to the occasion," said Bucks coach Jim Boylan. "We slide him over to the point guard position tonight for most of the game and he does what he does. He's a very, very good basketball player and he showed that tonight."
Atlanta's Kyle Korver opened the game with a 3-pointer, extending his streak of consecutive games with a 3 to 72, the fourth-longest in NBA history. Korver added another 3 to give Atlanta a 12-5 lead.
The Bucks then answered with their 3-point barrage. Ilyasova made back-to-back 3s to start an 11-2 run that gave Milwaukee the 16-14 lead.
"Tonight we started the game off the right way," Ellis said. "Second half, they came out with a spark, made shots. ... Coming down the stretch they made the plays and we didn't.
"We were feeling good the whole game. It was a hard-fought game. They're a great basketball team. They fought back, got the lead, and made plays when they needed to."
The Bucks made 11 of 18 3-pointers in the first half, including 5 of 6 by Ilyasova. The Hawks had 15 turnovers in the half.
Milwaukee finished 17 for 33 on 3-pointers.
"They shot the ball great tonight," Horford said. "It just took more effort from us. We played better and didn't turn the ball over as much."
J.J. Redick and Ish Smith each scored 10 points for the Bucks.
NOTES: Atlanta outscored Milwaukee 62-30 in the paint. ... The Hawks completed their first season sweep (4-0) of the Bucks since 1996-97. ... One game after posting 25 rebounds with 17 points at Orlando, Bucks rookie John Henson had eight points and eight rebounds while making the fill-in start for Sanders. ... Harris received the Jason Collier Memorial Trophy before the game in honor of the late Hawks center who was 28 when he died in 2005 of problems caused by an enlarged heart.