|Team||Poss||Off Eff||eFG%||FT Rate||OR%||TO%|
|ATL||88 ||1.182 ||53.8||22.5 ||32.4||13.6 |
|MIL||88||1.261||60.1 ||40.6 ||27.6 ||17|
Milwaukee made at least one good adjustment (putting Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on Josh Smith instead of Joe Johnson) and lots and lots of shots at home but the Hawks have been complicit in evening the series.
Over the course of the season, the Hawks established themselves as a mediocre team both on the road and when the other team had the ball (regardless of a game's location). To secure the first of their eleventh straight road losses with a final margin of less than 18 points, the Hawks needed Mike Bibby to make 5 of 7 three-pointers, Josh Smith to turn four long jump shots into seven points (and, almost as improbably) make five of six free throws, and a 13-point fourth quarter from Joe Johnson.
There were two reasons why: 1) The Hawks couldn't stop the Bucks from scoring and 2) The Hawks couldn't or wouldn't re-create any of the offensively advantageous situations that made the victories in Games 1 and 2 possible. The two reasons are related. It's difficult to start a fast break when taking the ball out of your basket. It's easier to give up points when your defense isn't set following your own score. Neither is a suitable excuse for allowing Mbah a Moute, gifted though he is, to turn Josh Smith into a non-passing jump shooter or forgoing the pick-and-pop with Al Horford (something Milwaukee has yet to solve).
Smith and Horford are not absolved of responsibility for their relative lack of production in Games 3 and 4 but their defensive effort deflects some of the blame. Especially in comparison to the guards who have taken, over the last two games, short breaks from dribbling and shooting to run into the nearest ball-screen, abdicate their assignment of Brandon Jennings or John Salmons, and rest up until they get to touch the ball again. Yes, Kurt Thomas is setting lots of hard screens of narrow (if any) legality. No, the Atlanta guards are not making a good-faith effort* to fight through them. Nor are they doing much of anything after the switch to keep pace with Milwaukee's movement off the ball.
*The false hustle displayed by Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby in knocking Thomas over in frustration in the fourth quarter might endear both of them to a head coach who played Mario West 79 more seconds than he played Al Horford (2 fouls) or Jeff Teague in the second quarter, but neither action provided any tangible value.
The historical disparity between Atlanta's quality of play at home and on the road suggests that drawing strong conclusions from Games 3 and 4 would be foolish and that the limitations evident in this team may not cost them this series against an under-strength Milwaukee team. The historical record of this team should, even as it's being written, influence what one hopes are realistic, honest, and ambitious decisions about the future.