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Hawks/Bucks: Can Milwaukee avoid game four letdown?

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2009/2010 NBA Playoffs - Round One


55-30 (19-23 road)
47-38 (29-13 home)
April 26, 2010
Bradley Center
7:30 PM
Radio: WTMJ AM 620 TV: FSN Wisconsin/NBA TV
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: Hawks lead 2-1

Hawks Coverage

Peachtree Hoops / Hoopinion / Hawks Str8Talk / Atlanta Journal Constitution / Bucks Gameday

Offense/Defense: Bucks break through in game three
It's no secret that game three represented the best of the Bucks and absolute worst of the Hawks, a celebration of sorts for all of us fortunate enough to be there in person. Milwaukee had its best offensive performance (121.5 pts/100 possessions) since the win over Phoenix nine games ago, and the 101 pts/100 allowed was the Bucks' best defensive performance since they won in Philly six games ago. That's also well below what the Hawks are used to doing offensively (111.8 pts/100 during the season). Offensively, the story was pretty simple: the Bucks finally made shots from the field (57.5% eFG) and were once again above average on the offensive boards (34.4% vs. 26.2% over the season). Making shots + getting the ball back on the rare occasions when you do miss = good things.

Meanwhile, Atlanta didn't turn it over and grabbed an absolute ton of offensive boards (20 in total, 37.7% of their misses), but they simply couldn't make a shot. They hit just 39% from the field and 3/15 from deep, translating into a well below average 40.8% eFG (they made 49.6% for the season). Josh Smith was the poster child for the Hawks' problems, grabbing nine offensive rebounds yet making just 2/12 from the field despite a ton of looks around the hoop. The Bucks definitely defended much more effectively than they did in Atlanta--no flurry of alley-oops and open dunks this time around--but the Hawks also missed more than their share of chippies. It'll be interesting to see if Mike Woodson a) tries to get Smith more post touches early against Mbah a Moute and b) runs more pick/pop plays with Horford. I think Thomas can hold is own in the post--though Horford had some success there in game two, KT hasn't been giving him particularly easy looks--but his mobility is really tested in P&R, particulalry with Horford showing an excellent ability to catch and shoot from midrange (48% from 16-23 feet).

The Fish That Saved Milwaukee
After a couple uneven performances in Atlanta, John Salmons was back at his best with 22 points on 9/11 from the field with a game-high seven assists and one turnover. After missing all ten of his threes in Atlanta, Salmons destroyed the Hawks from mid-range--he made 6/6 fg between 10 and 16 feet and didn't take his first three until the Bucks were cruising in the late third. It was almost as though he'd promised himself not to settle for long jumpers, but then figured "what the hell" after the Bucks had pulled away...and of course he ripped it. He got the majority of the Bucks' P&R action early, freeing Jennings to look for spot up opportunities.

Just as importantly, his driving also helped teammates get open looks, something the Bucks didn't do as well in Atlanta. Yes, perimeter ball movement is great, but it's not going to get you too far unless there's some threat of driving and scoring around the hoop. While we can't expect Salmons to be so accurate every night, his driving and passing helped keep Atlanta off balance early-- a nice contrast to the 48-minute block parties the Hawks had at home. Charles Gardner writes that no one is more aware of Salmons' impact than his coach.

"He's helped everyone," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We were able to get another guy with confidence, a guy that wasn't afraid late in games to make plays. We were playing better (before the Salmons trade) but still searching.

"He can have a very efficient game. And he's another guy that can make decisions with the ball.

"I've been on teams myself as a point guard and sometimes you feel like you need to keep the ball because you're the main decision-maker. It's nice to be able to pitch it to somebody else and go spot up."

Waiting for Carlos
Delfino's two threes in the third quarter helped blow the game wide open, so amid all the fireworks it's easy to overlook the fact that he had another subpar outing: 2/9 fg, 6 pts, 5 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 3 to in 31 min. Stackhouse's scoring has helped offset Delfino's struggles, but at some point Count Chocula needs to have one of those 15-18 point, 7-10 rebound games that he seemed to be dropping regularly over the last three months of the season. So far he hasn't come close, scoring a total of just 18 points on 7/25 (28%) shooting in the series. Marvin Williams hasn't been great either, but Delfino's ability to keep defenses honest is even more important because Luc Mbah a Moute and Kurt Thomas don't generally offer much scoring punch.

Peachtree Hoops: Hawks Should Look in the Mirror
Not much to like from the Hawks' perspective.

What we saw was what the Hawks can be when they are at their worst. No defensive energy, no easy baskets going the other way, attacking from the outside-in, poor player and ball movement--resulting in only (16) assists and a sub-40 percent shooting night. Combine that with the usual MIL energy in their house--and making early shots, and the Hawks lost heart and the game early. Kudos to Mike Tirico for calling it out early---the Hawks looked as if they were playing at half speed. Marvin Williams, Al Horford, and Smith looked leg locked early on, and the front court tandem of Smith/Horford, who had combined for a nearly (60) percent shooting percentage, was only 7-19 in Game Three. Toss in Williams' 1-7 contribution and there was nowhere to go for the Hawks.

Courtside Analyst: Win Contributions from Game Three
Head over to CA for Ty's stats from game three.

Leaving Salmons monster game aside for a moment, I am particularly impressed with the play the team received from Dan Gadzuric and Kurt Thomas. In about 42 minutes of action last night, the pair grabbed 23 rebounds and allowed their counterparts to grab a combined total of 5. Superior work.