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Hawks vs. Bucks Preview: Another home matinee, another chance to make up playoff ground

The Bucks get another shot at a team they're trying to chase down in the East when Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, Al Horford and the Hawks roll into Milwaukee for a Sunday matinee at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.


2012/2013 NBA Season
(38-31, 16-18 road)
(34-34, 18-16 home)
March 24, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
2:00 CT
No Local TV / NBA League Pass | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Jeff Teague PG Brandon Jennings
Devin Harris SG Monta Ellis
Kyle Korver SF Marquis Daniels
Josh Smith PF Ersan Ilyasova*
Al Horford C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
92.3 (12th) Pace 94.6 (4th)
104.6 (19th) ORtg 103.6 (21st)
104.1 (9th) DRtg 105.1 (11th)

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

Renewing acquaintances. The Bucks failed a pair of road tests against Eastern playoff teams this week, getting blown out in the second half in Indiana on Friday and looking rather unconvincing in Atlanta on Wednesday. Basically: they looked like a team right at home in the 8th seed, not a club hell bent on moving up. Unfortunate, is what it is.

Both games saw the Bucks shoot abysmally--37% in Atlanta and 31% in Indiana--with Monta Ellis (2/14 in Atlanta) and Brandon Jennings (1/15 in Indiana!) alternating as the brick-laying goats. Heck, even J.J. Redick was awful in Indiana (1/11 fg), reinforcing why the Pacers own the league's best defense. The Bucks' offensive inefficiency was also out of character from what we've been seeing over the past month, as their scoring efficiency in both games was worse than in any of their prior 16 games. Wednesday's loss was also perhaps predictable in that it came on the second end of a back-to-back, with Milwaukee's inability to put Portland away on Tuesday requiring Ellis and Jennings to log 40+ minutes yet again.

That's been a recurring theme under Jim Boylan, and you can only wonder what kind of impact it will have going forward. Ellis regularly averaged 40+ minutes in Golden State, but it's difficult to imagine any of this helping them stay fresh down the stretch. I'm not saying Ish Smith is the solution to the Bucks' problems, but with a third of J.J. Redick's time coming at small forward (seriously) it's no surprise that Ellis and Jennings are being run into the ground.

Hawks looking to bounce back. Atlanta followed up their Wednesday win over the Bucks with a 104-93 home loss to the Blazers, wasting solid nights from Al Horford (15 pts, 17 reb, 5 ast), Jeff Teague (21 pts on 11 shots, 7 ast) and Josh Smith (24 pts, 10 rebs). Everyone else added just 33 points, however, and Smith went 0/5 in the fourth quarter as Atlanta let one get away.

Tiebreakers. By virtue of winning the first two meetings between the teams, Atlanta is guaranteed not to lose their head-to-head with the Bucks this season, meaning any potential tie would be broken either by Atlanta winning the head-to-head (if they can win one of the remaining two games) or by conference record (where they lead by 2.5 games). But all of that will be irrelevant if the Bucks can't make up the 3.5 game lead that the 5th seeded Hawks currently have in the standings, a task that would seem unlikely at best without a win today. The seventh seeded Celtics (1.5 games up) are the more obvious target for now, especially since the Bucks already own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Boston.

Ersan back, Luc out. The Bucks hope to have Ersan Ilyasova (hip, listed as probable) back for the first time in a week, though Luc Mbah a Moute (turf toe) remains out. Milwaukee did just fine without Ilyasova against the Blazers, but their lack of scoring depth was exposed rather plainly in Atlanta and Indianapolis. The injury was also unfortunate timing for Ersan, who had racked up three straight 20-point/10-rebound efforts before suffering a hard fall saving a ball inbounds late in Sunday's win over the Magic.

Ivan Johnson (back spasms) is a question mark for the Hawks while Zaza Pachulia (Achilles) remains out. Otherwise, Deshawn Stevenson and Kyle Korver started on the wings against the Blazers, but I'm guessing Devin Harris returns to the starting lineup in Stevenson's place given a) Larry Drew has shuttled Harris in and out of the lineup for some time and b) Drew has preferred pairing Harris with Jeff Teague against smaller backcourts including the Bucks.