SI: Bucks put brakes on Hawks' running game
We mentioned the Hawks' sloppy transition game in our recap--how many times did the Bucks pick off a pass or otherwise break up transition opportunities last night? Seemed like it was more of an issue in the first half, while in the second half both teams settled down into their typical slow-paced game. Though the Bucks averaged 91.7 possessions/game in the regular season, they've been under 88 for each of the last eight games and last night was the slowest game of the series (85.5 possessions). While Atlanta was 27th in the league in pace (90.1), they were also fourth in the league in fast break pts/game (16 ppg), so they usually manage to blend a methodical halfcourt game with opportunistic transition. Meanwhile, the Bucks were fourth from the bottom at just 10 ppg in transition, yet they edged the Hawks in transition 12-10 last night. In their two wins the Hawks averaged 18.5 points on the break, but they've been limited to just 10.3 ppg in their three losses. Paul Forrester has more:
The Hawks thrive in the open floor, where their athletic skills can pile up fast break points in a hurry, get the crowd involved and feed the emotional fire this team needs. Milwaukee took those elements away for much of Game 5 with a careful plan that eschewed overworking the offensive glass to scramble back on defense and stall Atlanta's running game, which produced only 10 fast break points. Once back, the Bucks then packed in their defense toward the hoop, inducing Atlanta to shoot from midrange, which became a problem when the Joe Johnson-Mike Bibby-Jamal Crawford rotation combined to hit 11-for-39. While mucking it up on offense isn't preferable for the Hawks, that's a style with which Milwaukee is quite comfortable -- which explains why the Bucks can win despite shooting 40.5 percent.
Bucks.com: Game 6 Sold Out
Game six is already sold out, but you can still win a pair of tickets over at Bucks.com--and hopefully there will be more games at the BC next week. Knock on wood.
FanHouse: Evans beats Curry, Jennings for ROY honors
Nothing surprising about Tyreke Evans taking home the ROY award, though I'm not sure anyone in Wisconsin particularly cares at the moment. It would have been nice, but Jennings has bigger fish to fry at the moment. In case you're wondering, Jennings is averaging 20.8 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.0 rpg and just 1.4 to on .448/.357/.842 shooting in the playoffs. Not bad, kid.
Evans beat out fellow guards Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings in balloting. The Kings' rookie racked up 67 of 123 first-place votes, and appeared among the top three on every single ballot. Curry, the Warrior, finished second, earning 43 first-place votes and appearing on all but four ballots.
Jennings, whose Bucks lead Atlanta 3-2 in the first round of the Eastern Confernce playoffs, finished third. He earned 12 first-place votes, and made 112 of 123 ballots. Some combination of Evans, Curry and Jennings appeared on all but 15 ballots. The single first-place vote not claimed by that troika was given to Hornets guard Darren Collison.
Hollinger: Jennings establishing himself in postseason
Great read on Jennings' continuing development in the postseason, courtesy of John Hollinger. I'd echo Hollinger's comments about Jennings' defense, an area I've been skeptical of in the past. While Mike Bibby is essentially just a spot-up player at this point, I've been really impressed by Jennings' ability to hang with Crawford (how about that block last night?) and it's generally amazing how few mistakes Brandon has made this series.
Unlike Evans or Curry, however, he doesn't have to post big offensive numbers in order to be an effective player. For starters, Jennings has run the point with savvy belying his years, committing just seven turnovers in five games in the postseason. He's still not a classic drive-and-kick guy, but in his year spent taking his lumps in Italy and his season under Skiles, he's learned how to play nearly mistake-free basketball.
And then there's the defense. Jennings is miles beyond Evans and Curry in this respect, and that explains why his on-court versus off-court defensive stats are the best of the three -- even though Jennings' faces much more difficult comparisons via this stat because his teammates actually guard people. The Kings were 21st in Defensive Efficiency and the Warriors 29th, while Jennings' Milwaukee team, by contrast, was third.
Jennings is undersized and took his lumps at times at the defensive end of the floor early in the season. But he has steadily improved by necessity, and because he's been held accountable all season, his defense this series has been consistently good and at times phenomenal. I watched Game 3 and thought it was the best I'd ever seen him defend, but he was just as good in far more trying circumstances in Game 5.
BBJ: Bucks heroes, Hawks goats
J.D. Mo takes a trip down memory lane with Kevin McHale.
TNT had Kevin McHale in the broadcast chair, and I’m glad they did. McHale touted Ilyasova all game, probably thinking Ersan’s uncanny ability to steal hustle plays would have had him fitting right in with Bird and McHale and Parrish on the 1980’s Celtics championship teams. To Bucks fans who remember the heartbreaking losses to the Sixers in the early 1980’s, the 6′9″ Ersan invokes another player McHale hasn’t forgotten, Sixers forward Bobby Jones, the man who caused more grief than any opposing player in Bucks history.
Ilyasova was Bobby Jones incarnate Wednesday night, entering the game with 4:09 to play and the Bucks down nine, 82-73. He took over the game with three come-from-nowhere hustle plays on consecutive Bucks possessions that left the Hawks demoralized, beaten and booed by the Atlanta faithful.
When the Bucks gutted together a 14-0 run, thoughts of Game 5 of the 2001 Eastern Conference finals kept coming to mind. The Bucks came so close to winning that pivotal Game 5, that close to closing out Philadelphia at home in Game 6.
This isn't the conference finals. It's not exactly the unforgettable 8 vs. 1 upset Denver pulled on Seattle 16 years ago, either. But for this team, right here, right now, it's tantalizingly close to becoming almost as good as it gets.
Courtside Analyst: "…a spectacular comeback!!" and a spectacular radio call
I'm a huge Ted Davis fan (Dennis Krause too), so listening to Ty's experience last night has me a bit jealous I was stuck listening to TNT's commentary.
"Well, down by 9, its probably going to take a perfect effort from here by the Bucks, and some help from the Atlanta Hawks."
That’s how Ted Davis described things to me, literally, after I turned the radio on. Mentally I was trying to calculate the Bucks probability of winning. It wasn’t high. I knew Davis was right. The Bucks had to play perfect, and the Hawks had to play hapless. Thankfully, both things happened.
Peachtree Hoops: Rock bottom
The gang at Peachtree Hoops takes a long look at what the Hawks' latest loss could mean in the big picture.
So yes, there are real coaching issues with this loss that point back to prior problems we have seen all season long. There are player performances that raise questions about team building blocks and ceiling. And there are actual blogging points to discuss as the team moves forward in a series that is far from over. But tonight? Tonight I mourn. I mourn 13 win seasons and player development. I mourn a free agent from Phoenix that took a chance on a city and a seven game series that made that city come alive. I mourn unlimited upside and player development and I mourn coaching question marks and franchise players. Because for this set of players, the unknown is over. The ceiling has been reached. And no words or box scores or analysis make that easier to take. Because it is just sad, but you can know I am sad right there with you.