In case you haven't been paying attention, the Bucks are on fire.
A drastic trade deadline wasn't enough to derail the bullet train the Bucks are riding right now. Milwaukee relied on the same strategies to take down the Denver Nuggets as they have all year: clutch shooting from Khris Middleton and tough, tenacious defense. The offense sure looked different (and a bit rough, in all honesty) without Brandon Knight at the helm, but things should hopefully fall into place in the next few weeks as the new players get acclimated.
While the Nuggets were dealing with deadline-induced upheaval of their own, the Atlanta Hawks are eager to get back to their winning ways after a quiet deadline of their own. Atlanta dropped their last game before the All-Star break, a one-point loss to the Boston Celtics on a last-second shot by Evan Turner. Then on Friday the Hawks got shellacked by the Toronto Raptors, a 25-point loss in which the team shot 33 percent.
That means the Hawks are now facing their first three-game losing streak of the season, something they've fought off twice before this season. Maybe that means little for a team that won 19 in a row earlier this year, but it's a boon for the Bucks to be catching them in a bit of a funk. Or, alternatively, it's a warning to be ready for a highly-motivated Atlanta's best.
Half of Milwaukee's roster seems to be listed as day-to-day right now, but only Michael Carter-Williams remains out as he recovers from a toe injury. The Hawks, meanwhile, have a clean bill of health.
The Hawks are built around creating and making good shots while preventing their opponents from doing the same, ranking in the top ten in both offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage. But they've got the same sort of rebounding issues as Milwaukee, ranking dead last in offensive rebound percentage and in the bottom third on defense. Atlanta also excels at defending without fouling, boasting the third-lowest defensive free-throw rate in the NBA.
Key Matchup: Skilled frontcourts go toe-to-toe
Paul Millsap and Al Horford are about as talented a PF/C combo as you'll find in the NBA. They're each gifted passers, solid shooters, and good defenders. Jared Dudley and John Henson present some tough matchups of their own, with Dudley stretching the floor and Henson's unblockable hook shot. But the versatility factor definitely swings in Atlanta's favor. Coupled with Jeff Teague's playmaking and Kyle Korver's shooting, the Hawks can do damage from just about every position and in a variety of ways. With a depleted backcourt rotation somewhat lacking in scoring punch, the Bucks need get solid production out of their interior players and hold back their counterparts if they want to hang with the Eastern Conference's best.
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
|February 22, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Jeff Teague||PG||Jerryd Bayless|
|Kyle Korver||SG||Khris Middleton|
|DeMarre Carroll||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Paul Millsap||PF||Jared Dudley|
|Al Horford||C||John Henson|
|2012/13 Advanced Stats|
|93.9 (15th)||Pace||93.9 (14th)|
|109.3 (6th)||ORtg||104.2 (19th)|
|102.9 (7th)||DRtg||102.0 (2nd)|
On the Hawks: Peachtree Hoops | HawksHoop | Atlanta Journal-Constitution