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Game 6: Can Bucks close out the Hawks?

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2009/2010 NBA Playoffs - Round One


55-32 (19-24 road)
49-38 (30-13 home)
April 30, 2010
Bradley Center
6:00 PM
Radio: WTMJ AM 620 TV: FSN Wisconsin/ESPN
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: Bucks lead 3-2


Peachtree Hoops / Hoopinion / Hawks Str8Talk / Atlanta Journal Constitution

Under Pressure. The weirdest part about preparing for game six? All of a sudden, the Bucks are probably feeling a bit of pressure. Sure, there was pressure when the Bucks were down 2-0, but a different kind. That was the internal pressure to survive, not the external weight of expectations, something rather familiar to a Bucks squad which was written off back in October and spent the entire season fighting for respect even as they were putting together one of the best records in the league over the season's final months. The Bucks and particularly Brandon Jennings seem to be at their best with a fresh chip on their shoulder, but having a golden opportunity to close out the Hawks changes the dynamic a bit.

Atlanta may be demoralized, but they might also feel the the kind of urgency and desperation that would have been useful a couple games ago. Will they change up their switch everything strategy? Offer a bit of zone? Run more plays for game five stars Al Horford and Marvin Williams? Fortunately, the Bucks didn't have problems being ready to play at home this season (30-13), and it's pretty certain that the crowd at the BC will be the loudest we've heard since the Bucks' Eastern Conference finals run nearly a decade ago.

Bucks formula? Just win
A funny part about the Bucks is that we're still sort of trying to figure out what their real identity is as a Bogut-less team. The Bucks' second ranked defense from the regular season isn't what it is without Bogut, but they've done an amazing job staying afloat offensively: they averaged 104.9 pts/100 possessions over the course of the entire season, but since Bogut's injury that number has jumped to over 111 pts/100 including 112.3 in the playoffs. That doesn't make too much sense given how important Bogut's post game is to their overall offensive strategy. But aside from the small sample (which is also biased by a ton of games against the mediocre-defending Hawks), you can also point to the fact that it's forced them to drive and draw more fouls, shoot slightly more three pointers, and they've cut their turnover rate as well. Interestingly they've also slowed down their pace dramatically without Bogut, so you don't see their improved efficiency in the raw scoring numbers (97.7 overall, 97.3 pts/game since Bogut went out).

The Bucks' slower pace also masks their defensive struggles without Bogut, though it's been something of a mixed bag against Atlanta. They've "only" allowed 95.6 pts/game this series and 94.4 since Bogut got hurt compared, to 96.0 over the course of the entire season. But again it's just a product of pace. The Bucks' defensive rebound rate has fallen notably without Bogut and it's been downright terrible this series--the Hawks have grabbed nearly 32% of their misses, up from about 28% during the regular season when the Hawks ranked an already-damn-good fourth in the league.

Thankfully the Hawks have been nearly as bad, allowing the Bucks to grab over 31% of their misses as well. Neither team has turned it over much, and all told the Hawks are averaging 110 pts/100 possessions. That's bad compared to the Bucks' 102.9 pts/100 over the course of the season, but don't forget Atlanta also averaged 112. So while the Bucks aren't playing Bucks defense, they're playing just enough defense to get by. They were solid in games three and five but won in game four in spite of Atlanta scoring nearly at will (120 pts/100).

JS: Kohl letting Hammond work
The Bradley Center bag night revolt was just two years ago, but at this point it might as well be a million. And much of the credit goes to Scott Skiles and John Hammond, whom Herb Kohl empowered to makeover the franchise. Some interesting quotes from Sen. Kohl on that subject, especially given his previous rep for meddling in front office decision making.

"Usually, that's the kind of foundation you can build on. Very good players come and very good players go. That's the nature of the business. But when you have a foundation with the general manager and the coach who are clearly so good at their jobs, you can feel good about the future. And I do."

Kohl is so pleased with the leadership team that the hands-on owner has wisely allowed them to overrule him on personnel decisions.

"A lot of things I've suggested have not gone down," Kohl said. "But it's been all right, because finally they make the decisions with whatever input I have.

"The things they've wanted to do have been right. And some of them I didn't agree with, without going into specifics. I thought they were making a mistake, but they have been right every time so far."