Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quotes, Notes, and Links: Atlanta Hawks 102 Milwaukee Bucks 92




Mike Woodson on his team's excellent start:
"We’re at home, we’re playing playoff basketball, and we’re playing in front of our fans, who were fantastic tonight. That’s the energy. We came out and jumped them right away."
Scott Skiles on his team's terrible start and partial recovery:
"The first half we were a little shell-shocked. I think in the second half we competed harder. We settled down a bit and played more like ourselves."
Brandon Jennings:
"I feel like we need to come out with more intensity. I think we were a little nervous."
If Jennings was affected by nerves, the Bucks best hope he stays nervous.

Josh Smith:
"It felt good. The energy was high and the adrenaline was pumping, and we were able to calm down and get off to a good start."
Mike Bibby:
"They kind of played off me a little bit, so I don't think they knew if I could shoot. I was just happy they were going in."
If he keeps his eFG% above 100, I'm confident such smart-assery will be, not just tolerated, but celebrated. The two late turnovers Bibby committed suggest that he wants no part of Brandon Jennings or John Salmons pressuring the ball when its in his hands.

Mike Woodson:
"When you get ahead by so much, you kind of get lackadaisical. Basketball is a game of runs. They made a run at us. The main thing is: We withstood it."
Jamal Crawford:
"We had a great first half. The second half, we slacked off a little bit."
The flip side of that explanation is that the excellent first half was also a run rather than the sort of basketball (in a tactical rather than results sense) the Atlanta Hawks are capable of or should be expected to play on a more consistent basis.

Scott Skiles on Josh Smith's impact on the game:
"Early in the game we were letting Josh catch it where he wanted to. They threw it in to him, he backed us down and scored. We didn’t react very well, just standing around watching. He can score on almost anybody, especially smaller players."
Josh Smith on the second half:
"We definitely got away from it. We’ve got to stay with that gameplan. That’s what’s going to be successful with Bogut being absent."
Michael Cunningham provides context to the following Mike Woodson quote about the second half:
Someone asked Woody a question in which they said the second half is “indicative of our Hawks.” The question was legit but the phrasing was indelicate, and Woody didn’t much like it. "First of all, I don’t agree with you that that’s indicative of our Hawks. We’ve played solidly all year. We’ve had some close games, and when you get into playoff basketball, you can build a big lead but teams are going to make runs and you’re going to see that in the playoffs the rest of the way out.
For the record, I was not credentialed for the game. Plus, I would never say "our" Hawks. I've made my feelings about Danny Manning clear and I realize they preclude me from gaining full membership.

Cunningham on the game's flow:
...admire that display before halftime. The Hawks shared the ball. They exploited mismatches on offense. The were sharp when switching on defense. They defended with vigor.

The Hawks started doing the opposite of the many good things they did in the first half. One problem was they stopped exploiting the matchups in the post Skiles was talking about...But, to be fair, Josh and Al also didn’t respond very well when the Bucks started pushing them farther from the basket. The Hawks did try to throw it to the post a few times but the entry passes were sloppy and the Bucks kept easily poking them away. The post-ups and the passes have to be crisper.
Mike Woodson agrees, though one wishes he'd done something preventative while the obvious occurred:
"We didn't utilize them enough. We went to them a few times."
And it is, again, true that Horford did not do a good job of converting his touches into points in the second half.

More from Skiles:
"The second half, we can build on that. We played much better and looked more like ourselves.

We could have just tipped over and figured, 'Hey, they got Game 1,' and walked out of here. We'll be able to look at the tape now and contrast the first half and second half and make some adjustments, but at least feel we made the game competitive."
Skiles on his use of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute:
"Luc did a respectable job on him (Johnson). In our opinion he's one of the tougher guys to cover in the league. But one of our issues is Luc can only guard one guy. Somebody else has to deal with Josh Smith. If we put Luc on Josh, then Joe gets loose a little bit. In the Carlos-Jerry (Stackhouse)-John (Salmons) mix, we need to step up and do a good job on one of their other skilled players."
Woodson on his team's defense of Brandon Jennings:
"He (Jennings) willed them back into the game with his play. For a while we let him have his way, and then Joe (Johnson) locked in a couple possessions in a row. We got steals from that and a couple scores, and that's how we've got to play."
It's unfair to put too much of the blame for Jennings's 34-point, 25-shot on Johnson because he shouldn't be expected to stay in front of a quick point guard when he only intermittently keeps 2-guards in front of him and because he was asked so often to hand Jennings off to a bigger teammate. Still, those two good defensive possessions where Johnson forced Jennings into turnovers were far and away the exceptions. They may represent how the Hawks have "got to play" but they don't represent an especially realistic goal.

Kurt Thomas:
"We showed in the second half we can play with these guys, but we have to do it for four quarters, not for two quarters."
The Vent:
The Hawks played well enough to win, which is pretty much all I expect at this point. They only exert enough energy to get the win and not an ounce more. That's fine sometimes, but it's a recipe for disaster in the long run. The Hawks team that showed up in the first half is a team that could very well sweep the Bucks. The Hawks team that showed up in the second half is the team that will need 6 games to beat the Bucks. I'm inclined to think the second half Hawks team is the team we'll be seeing for most of this series. I'd love to be wrong about this, but deep down I don't think I am. Actually at the end of the day, the second half Hawks team is probably good enough to sweep the Bucks.
Jeff Schultz concurs and has Al Horford there to back him up:
Victory and humility can be a wonderful pairing in the playoffs.

“It’s a good thing,” Al Horford said later. “It keeps us on edge. Last year against Miami we blew them out in the first game, and I think guys got a little complacent. They won the second game and made the series tough for us.”
I have to admit the willingness to concede complacency at such moments as up 1-0 in a playoff series or up 62-40 at halftime of the first game of a playoff series is not an encouraging characteristic.

In two paragraphs, Kelly Dwyer praises the Hawks offense and contradicts basically everything I've written in two posts about the game:
The scary thing for Milwaukee is the idea that Atlanta hasn't scratched the surface. No, Bibby won't shoot 8-9 again, but the Hawks still finish games with observers wondering if they should have gone to Al Horford (15 points, five blocks) more, looked to find Josh Smith more, or run it through Jamal Crawford (17 points) more often.

This isn't to say that the Hawks were making mistakes with their possessions, far from it. It's just that this team is so loaded, you feel as if they're able to coast, skimming the best from the rotation and still winning by double-figures.
At Brew Hoop, Frank Madden details Atlanta's strong start:
Atlanta came out looking bigger, quicker, and flat-out better, blitzing the flat-footed Bucks 34-17 in the first en route to a 22-point halftime lead that the Bucks couldn't overcome. Behind a fearless 34-point effort from Brandon Jennings, the Bucks gave the Hawks a run the second half and at least salvaged their dignity going into game two, but they also got clear confirmation of what their up against: a damn good Hawks team.

Admittedly, it wasn't an immediate beatdown--the teams split the first 12 points of the game. But Atlanta then went on a 26-6 run that featured a whole lot of Josh Smith and Al Horford dunking, blocking and generally dominating the Bucks' frontline. We knew this could happen, but I guess I didn't expect it to happen so quickly. The pair combined for a modest 27 overall, but they set the tone early with 16 of the Hawks' 34 in the opening period.
At Bucksketball, Jeremy analyzes the long game:
Look, I’d like the Bucks to win this series or even just a couple games as much as the next person, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture here. The most important thing about getting to the playoffs this season was so the younger players, namely Jennings, could get the feel for it and even more important, a hunger for more. What would serve as a better motivator this off-season for him and the rest of the younger Bucks players than this taste of the post-season spotlight? Next season, the Bucks should then come back stronger with a group that’s been working and now has post-season experience. By next October, Milwaukee should be ready to strive to surpass the semi-lofty expectations sure to be placed on them next season.

And it all starts here.

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