Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Milwaukee Bucks 111 Atlanta Hawks 104

Boxscore

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.

6 comments:

rbubp said...

Seems to me last night was a real low point...here is a team that is supposed to be good, with a game it really needs, playing an overmatched opponent after getting spanked by them the other day. How can you not recognize the need to rotate better because they are going to switch Jennings or Salmons onto Pachulia or Horford every time? How can you let Ridnour and Delfino shoot open 3s?

How can you not post up---the LOW post--with whomever is not being guarded by Mbah a Moute???

The players are the coaches, clearly. It's just ridiculous to think that the Hawks are "coached."

Zoe said...

Good thing the Bucks don't have Bogut. This series might be over.

Jerry Hinnen said...

The "if they had Bogut" lament is a bit of a canard, since if they had Bogut the Bucks likely would have been the 5 seed and the Hawks would be up against the Heat.

Like rbubp, I'm not sure why, really, but last night was the angriest I've ever been with Woody. It's one thing to reward West's practice ethic with playing time against the Nets, it's another to do it in a critical Game 4 of a first-round playoff series. It's one thing to bench Al Horford for the entirety of the second quarter with two fouls when it's game 27 in December and the opposing team has no one to take advantage of Zaza, but it's another when it's the playoffs and Zaza is getting torched by Brandon Jennings time and time again. It's one thing to gibber uselessly about effort and bearing down on defense, another to actually make some adjustments so that your team doesn't give up freaking 1.3 points a possession and lose comfortably in a game where they score 1.2 PPP themselves.

Full credit to Woody to get the Hawks from the basement to their current level, but contrasting the Hawks' work against the Bucks with the Magic's sweep of Charlotte makes it clear how much work is still needed to get to that next level, and after last night there's no way Woody's getting the Hawks there. It's time to look for something better.

(Sorry for the rant, but last night drove me insane.)

Pearson said...

I still can't figure out why there aren't more pick and pops run for Horford, as you mentioned in the recap Bret. The Hawks need to do a better job of getting Kurt Thomas on the move on defense, and this is the best way to do it. They have gotten that shot whenever they wanted in the series, and considering Al is money from that range, you think they would go back to it more often. Oh well, here is to the Bucks not shooting 65% in the first quarter in Game 5 like they did in the last 2 games.

Pearson said...

Jerry, I just wanted to respond to your comment in that I was exasperated with Woody last night too, especially in the 2nd quarter. I just loved Brandon Jennings layup line in the 2nd quarter, courtesy of Woody not letting Al back into the game with 2 fouls. Jennings just ran by Pachulia for 3 or 4 layups in that quarter, and I was thinking that after 1 or 2 of those, it might occur to woody to send horford back into the game. However, it never happened, and it was so frustrating.

Also, the decision to send in Mario West was equally puzzling. On one possession, I think it was Joe found Mario after he made a nice cut into the painted area about 10 feet from the basket. Mario was wide open when he caught it, and any other NBA player takes that shot. However, Mario is so limited that he doesn't even look at the basket, and kicks out to a covered player on the 3 point line, thus leading to an empty possession.

Jerry Hinnen said...

It was worse than that, actually, Pearson--that was the possession where Jennings stripped Bibby (who was clearly not expecting West to pass the ball to him) and coasted in for a layup with like 30 seconds left in the half. AAAARRRGGGHHHH.