Saturday, April 17, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 102 Milwaukee Bucks 92


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIL 86
48.8 14.6
27.5 16.3
ATL 87 1.172 57.9

It's not a satisfying victory with the 62-point (+22) first half turning into a 40-point (-12) second half as the team showed, early evidence to the contrary, that they don't really intend to attack or simply are not capable of attacking a short-handed opponent's obvious defensive weaknesses for an entire game.

The Bucks opened the game with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on Joe Johnson and Carlos Delfino on Josh Smith. The Hawks responded by getting the ball to Josh Smith in the post, pushing the ball off of both Milwaukee misses and turnovers, and using Al Horford on the pick-and-pop rather than in the post against Kurt Thomas. It all worked beautifully.

Outside of Brandon Jennings, nothing worked for Milwaukee offensively in the first half but the Bucks, reduced to one viable offensive option, utilized it relentlessly* in the second half whereas the Hawks, who displayed a surfeit of viable offensive options in the first half, forswore them all in order to fall back on the worst of their habits. Too much of the third and fourth quarters were given over to four Hawks watching Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford dribble until one took a contested** jump shot or turned the ball over. The duo needed 15 field goal and 6 free throw attempts (all of the latter courtesy of Crawford) to score 19 second half points and committed 3 turnovers while earning 4 assists. Josh Smith had 12 points and 4 assists with 10:04 left in the third quarter. He would not add to either tally, missing one field goal and two free throw attempts in the remainder of the game.

*At least until Scott Skiles sat Jennings for a little more than four minutes from the 35.6 second mark of the third quarter.

**Often, in Johnson's case and courtesy of Mbah a Moute, an extremely well-contested shot.

In the second half, the Hawks (mostly) ignored Josh Smith in the post against Delfino or Ersan Ilyasova or Jerry Stackhouse. They forced an isolated Al Horford to try to score against Kurt Thomas in the post. Horford compounded the problem by missing a handful of good looks when the Hawks did get him the ball in the post with Ilyasova on him. With Milwaukee missing fewer shots and turning the ball over less often, Atlanta had fewer transition opportunities. Most inexplicably, the Hawks, who had dominated the first half in large part because of the superior skill, size, and athleticism of their starting frontcourt, matched the Bucks in going small and played four guards for more than four minutes, a decision which only accentuated the shift to a perimeter-oriented offense while also removing Atlanta's best defenders from the game.

Despite all the sub-optimal decisions in the second half and because of the glorious first half performance from the home team, Milwaukee never got closer than seven in the second half. Though Milwaukee's guards had little difficulty getting past their Atlanta counterparts*, they (the brilliant Jennings excepted) struggled to finish once they reached Smith or Horford or even Zaza Pachulia. The Hawks are simply better than this weakened Bucks team and it appears it will take both an above average performance from Milwaukee and a simultaneous below average performance from the Hawks for a period of time longer than a half for the Bucks to win a game, at least in Atlanta.

*Joe Johnson was repeatedly beaten off the dribble even though the two good defensive possessions he played in the third quarter drew far more attention from the broadcast team. Not that it's his fault he's asked to do something (keep Brandon Jennings in front of him) he can't. But he also can't keep John Salmons or Luke Ridnour in front of him.

And there was more good than bad* from the Hawks in this game even if the timing of the bad compared to the good did nothing to dissuade one of many of the doubts regular watching of this team engenders.

*Obviously so, they won by 10 points you foul-tempered sod.

Quotes, Notes, and Links to follow in the morning...

No comments: