Friday, April 30, 2010

Atlanta Hawks 83 Milwaukee Bucks 69


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 86
41.4 19.8
30.6 14
MIL 86 0.802 37.5

It has to be satisfying for Mike Woodson, amidst all the criticism leveled against him and all the unflattering comparisons to Scott Skiles regarding in-series adjustments, for the Hawks to win a road game and extend the series to a seventh game largely because his team's underlying defensive philosophy worked marvelously.

The third quarter, won 29-11 by the Hawks, showed what the Hawks hope to accomplish defensively by using their athletic frontcourt players to make up for the limitations of the team's perimeter defenders. Josh Smith and Al Horford were everywhere. They cut off driving lanes at the point of attack. They protected the paint when their teammates forced the ball toward the help. The Atlanta Hawks turned the Milwaukee Bucks into strictly a jump shooting team and, because the Bucks were not stretching and inverting the Atlanta defense, the Hawks could take advantage of Milwaukee's missed shots by controlling the defensive glass.

The Bucks were 3-16 from the floor in the third quarter. 12 of those shots were jump shots. The Hawks grabbed 11 of 13 possible defensive rebounds. Add in the five turnovers forced and the Hawks enjoyed a brief respite from having to score against a set Milwaukee defense.

Rarely is the interaction between offense and defense so clear. The relationship between the two aspects of the game was magnified by Scott Skiles deciding, in the understandable hope of finding some way and someone to put the ball in the basket, removed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from the game three-and-a-half minutes into the quarter and Kurt Thomas four minutes later. The smaller Milwaukee lineup found slightly more offensive success than the starting lineup but those gains were more than offset by the ease with which the Hawks operated around the basket in the absence of Mbah a Moute and Thomas.

Al Horford scored 9 of his 15 points in the third quarter. Josh Smith scored 4 of his 10 and each assisted on the two field goals (totaling five points) Joe Johnson made in the quarter. That last point was key on a night where Johnson made his first 3 field goal attempts but just 5 of his remaining 21 shots (and one of those five makes came with 10 seconds left and the Hawks up 11).

Because of Johnson's struggles to create good shots for himself and his team's inability to commit to an alternative first option to reduce their collective degree of offensive difficulty, I suspect the team will have to mount a similar shared effort (both before and after Milwaukee attempts a shot) in Game 7. Also unable to get to the free throw line very often, they appear, through six games of the series, to need the offense their defense creates both in and of itself and for the pressure it can put on Skiles to find the right balance between the primarily offensive and primarily defensive players at his disposal.

Then again, Game 7 might come down to which team makes more of the jump shots they're forced into or create for themselves. Games 5 and 6 were won by the team that made a higher percentage of their three-point attempts and both the Bucks in Game 5 and the Hawks in Game 6 made just 40% of their two-point field goal attempts.

1 comment:

rbubp said...

Even Larry brown would've been proud of that defense. I can see that not always happening in the regular season, what with travel, back-to-backs, fatigue, touchy refs, etc...but
why it hasn't come out more consistently now that it's the PLAYOFFS is the mystery.

Playoffs? Shoot, I'm just happy they won a game!