Bucks/Hawks: Looking for a lead in Atlanta

2009/2010 NBA Playoffs - Round One

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Milwaukeebucks1_medium
55-31 (36-7 home) 
vs.
48-38 (18-25 road)
April 28, 2010
Philips Arena
7:00 PM
Radio: WTMJ AM 620 TV: FSN Wisconsin/TNT
Probable starters:
Mike Bibby
PG Brandon Jennings
Joe Johnson
SG John Salmons
Marvin Williams
SF Carlos Delfino
Josh Smith
PF Luc Mbah a Moute
Al Horford
C Kurt Thomas

Series: Tied 2-2

Hawks Coverage

Peachtree Hoops / Hoopinion / Hawks Str8Talk / Atlanta Journal Constitution

A lead.
True, the Bucks are looking for a series lead, but a lead of any kind in Atlanta would be a start. By my count, the Bucks led for (edited) one minute and eleven seconds at Philips Arena during the first two games.

Getting familiar.
The Bucks and Hawks have already played each other seven times in the last two months, dating back to the overtime loss in Atlanta on Feb. 28. The home team has won all but one matchup thus far -- the Hawks won the final regular season matchup 104-96 at the BC.

HOT-lanta.
The Hawks haven't lost at home in a long, long while. Their previous loss in Atlanta was exactly two months from Monday's game -- an overtime loss to Dallas. That was the game Jason Kidd famously and quite purposely ran into Mike Woodson, drawing a technical on Atlanta's coach based on the rarest of technicalities. That Hawks blew a 15-point lead in that game and just disintegrated in overtime, scoring four points in the five extra minutes en route to a 111-104 loss.

Since then, Atlanta has won 14 in a row at home, including against the Spurs, Magic, Lakers, and Cavaliers. Oh, and the Bucks three times. This is what Milwaukee is up against.

Due to lose, or unbeatable?

Line.
They won each of the first two at home by 10 points, and even after a pair of losses in Milwaukee, the Hawks are favored by 9.

NBA.com: Crawford named Sixth Man of the Year
Deserved honor for Jamal Crawford, who waited a full NBA decade before making the playoffs for the first time, and while he scored 17 in Game One and 21 in Game Four, we are still nervously hoping that one of the deadliest shooters and scorers in the league doesn't deliver a Delfino-like breakout game.

In Crawford's final two regular season games, he scored 25 points (4-9 on threes) and then 28 points (5-6 on threes), and a performance like that will rather likely be too much for Milwaukee to overcome. Crawford made 2-6 from deep on Monday while his teamates fared much better, making a combined 8-13 from beyond the arc. Milwaukee's three point defense worried me a bit last game; they weren't closing out quickly enough, and the Hawks obviously have shooters to make you pay.

Dime: Evans and Jennings should be co-ROY
So, this is the least of our concerns. Dime actually said Brandon should win the award a couple weeks ago, and only reaffirmed it yesterday. In any event, Tyreke Evans is expected to be named Rookie of the Year today, and that's just fine. Jennings is a bit busy anyway.

Peachtree Hoops: How switching removes the Hawks' greatest advantages
About a week ago, this would have seemed like a most outrageous idea. Atlanta, of course, had defended with great success by switching like mad, until the last couple games.

So now what? Peachtree Hoops recommends zoning it up. The Bucks had trouble dealing with zone defenses earlier this season, notably in losses in Toronto and late in the game against the Clips in L.A. on St. Patty's Day. It should be noted that the Raptors (30th in defensive efficiency) and Clippers (22th) were two of the worst defensive in the NBA. But it should also be noted that the point was to limit Bogut's touches, and Bogut isn't playing anymore.

Then again, the Bucks also had some success against zones, most memorably in a 94-71 throttling of the Heat in South Beach.

Going to a zone would seem to play into the Bucks' gameplan -- despite getting tons of points in the paint in Milwaukee, they openly admit that they must make threes to win sans Bogut. Nevertheless, it's all about adjustment in a playoff series, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Milwaukee thrown off a bit by a zone.

What I would love to see from Woodson in game 5 is to actually play some zone defense.  Maybe an entire game worth of zone defense.  It should help force the Bucks into taking more jumpshots, which has not at all been their strength in this series.  It also helps cover up some of the gap in quickness on the perimeter by forcing the Bucks to attack spots instead of specific players.  Normally, this is not recommended against a team like the Bucks, who lack an interior offensive presence that they want to work through.  It limits some of the mismatches, which can be detrimental to the better team.  But the mismatches on the perimeter are more costly, and having our best help defenders in the appropriate position should really help disrupt the lay-up drill we saw during the quarters 2 and 3 of Game 4.

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