Bucks vs. Hawks Preview: Bucks Head To Atlanta For Date With Josh Smith And Co.

2011/2012 NBA Season

vs.

12-5 (10-6 away) 14-21 (6-13 road)
March 2, 2012
Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
6:30 PM CT
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Jeff Teague PG Brandon Jennings
Kirk Hinrich
SG Shaun Livingston
Marvin Williams SF Carlos Delfino
Josh Smith PF Ersan Ilyasova
Zaza Pachulia C Drew Gooden

(21st) 101.6 - OFFENSE - 103.2 (16th)
(6th) 99.9 - DEFENSE - 105.7 (22nd)
(22nd) 90.0 - PACE - 92.0 (12th)

On The Hawks: Peachtree Hoops / Hoopinion / Hawks Str8Talk / Atlanta Journal Constitution

A pair of struggling teams meet in Atlanta on Friday night when the Bucks travel to Georgia for a date with the Hawks.

UPDATE: Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Joe Johnson will not play due to knee tendinitis.

Before and after. The Hawks' 97-92 win in Milwaukee on January 23 bumped Atlanta to an impressive 13-5 at the time. But since then they're a more pedestrian 7-10 and have lost six of their last eight games, including an 85-82 home defeat to the Warriors on Wednesday. The Hawks' offense has been the primary culprit; they've been well below their season average offensive efficiency Joe Johnson returned after missing the previous two games (knee tendinitis) and posted a ho-hum 18 points on 6/17 shooting.

Meanwhile, the Bucks are a comparable 8-11 since the teams last met, but Milwaukee has also lost three of four overall and 11 of the last 14 against Atlanta. As noted on Wednesday, defense has suddenly become the Bucks' Achilles' heel, as Milwaukee has conceded 100+ points in three straight; they haven't allowed 100+ in four straight since December 2010.

Starvin' Marvin. Former #2 overall pick (and almost Milwaukee Buck) Marvin Williams--who may or may not have asked for a trade a couple weeks ago--notched his first double-double of the year on Wednesday in a season-high 41 minutes. But despite starting in all 31 of his games this season, Williams is averaging just 24.7 mpg--the exact same figure as in his rookie year, which unsurprisingly is the lowest of his career.

Williams is also shooting a career-low 40.4% from the field, largely driven by his newfound penchant for threes: he's making a career-high 41.6% from deep and taking nearly a third of his shots from long range, though that hasn't prevented him from posting his worst TS% (51.9%) since 2007.

Jennings' struggles. February in Milwaukee just doesn't seem to agree with Brandon Jennings. For the third time in as many seasons, Jennings' already mediocre shooting efficiency cratered in February, plummeting from 44.0% in January to 33.6% last month. Looking back to his first two seasons, he shot a career-worst 30.7% in February 2010 and his least efficient shooting month as a sophomore came in February 2011 (34.0%).

The reasons for Jennings' February blues are likely unrelated year-to-year. As a rookie he was likely dealing with fatigue from his first NBA schedule, as a sophomore he was bouncing back from his broken foot, and this year...well, let's hope it can be blamed on some short-term distractions and not merely mean reversion to his typical bad shooting (Steve, don't answer that). As we've discussed ad nauseum, Jennings' focus wavered early in the month and he hasn't been the same since, both inside and out. Jennings has made just 25/55 shots (45.4%) at the rim since the Lakers game on January 28, and his 26.8% shooting from deep is particularly problematic given that over a third of his shots are threes.

So can he bounce back going forward? The compressed schedule makes this March unlike others, but historically it's been one of his better shooting months: 38.5% as a rookie (sadly, that was his best rookie shooting month after November) and 41.2% last year. Note that I said better, not good.

The Ersanator. On the flip side, February marked a career month for Ersan Ilyasova: 14.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg on .451/.370/.824 shooting. Ilyasova currently ranks sixth out of 80 qualifying PFs in offensive rebound rate (14.0%), tenth in defensive rebound rate (24.4%), seventh in overall rebound rate (18.9%) and 19th in PER (18.87). Two weeks until the trade deadline...

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