Saturday, April 24, 2010

Milwaukee Bucks 107 Atlanta Hawks 89


Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 87
40.8 20.7
34.4 13.8
MIL 87 1.23 57.5

In a certain sense, this shouldn't be a surprise. Milwaukee did everything they said they'd do: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute started the game defending Josh Smith, they moved better without the ball, and they shot the ball better. It wasn't assured before the fact, but each adjustment had the desired effect for the Bucks. Mbah a Moute solidified Milwaukee's interior defense (Smith was 2-12 from the floor and earned just one assist), given passing options when attacking the heart of Atlanta's defense the Bucks had just five shots blocked, and, after making half the their two-point attempts and just 22.7% of their three-point attempts through two games, the Bucks made 54.4% of their two-point attempts (an improvement not unrelated to having fewer shots blocked) and 43.5% of their three-point attempts.

It remains to be seen how the Hawks adjust to Milwaukee's adjustments. For reasons that have featured prominently in this space for years, there are certain advantages* to letting Atlanta run their offense through Joe Johnson to the (relative) exclusion of Josh Smith. However, it's hard to discern, based on the evidence of tonight's game where solid defensive tactics end and missing makeable shots begin. The Hawks should use Joe Johnson heavily if he's matched up against Carlos Delfino or John Salmons and Smith and Al Horford are guarded by Mbah a Moute and Kurt Thomas respectively.

*Josh Smith's usefulness decreases the farther he strays from the basket while simultaneously giving the defense an extra player to help on Johnson; Johnson doesn't get to the free throw line.

For one half, Johnson held up his end of the bargain, scoring 16 points on 10 shots and earning 3 assists. His disastrous 1-7 plus a turnover third quarter was a different story, but would it have been so decisive had Josh Smith not missed eight of ten shots in the paint (and both jump shots he attempted), had Marvin Williams not missed all six shots he attempted inside of 15 feet, had Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford not missed 12 of 18 field goals (0-6 3PTA) through three quarters, or had the Hawks not forgotten about Al Horford's success with the pick-and-pop against Thomas until halfway through the third quarter? Despite taking more shots than any two other Hawks before he exited the game, Johnson rarely forced the action. He earned four of Atlanta's eleven pre-garbage time assists and committed just the one (aforementioned) turnover.

The Hawks got blown out for one very familiar reason: the team's defense, in allowing for its inherent limitations in preventing dribble penetration, is designed to force the other team into taking jump shots. Milwaukee, to their credit, made a huge percentage of the jump shots they got against the Hawks in this game. In Game 4, should that not be the case, and, should the Hawks convert more of their decent looks, the result may not change* but the contest should remain competitive for more than 40 minutes of game time. Especially if Josh Smith and Al Horford can combine for more than four defensive rebounds.

*The Hawks are now 19-23 on the road this season.

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