Thursday, November 11, 2010

Milwaukee Bucks 108 Atlanta Hawks 91



Hoopdata boxscore

Highlights (such as they are)

Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
MIL 91
56.3 11.5
30.6 14.3
ATL 90 1.011 52.7

For the second game in a row, the Hawks jumped out to a quick start against a good defensive team and, for a second game in a row, saw that quick start come to a screeching halt as soon as the second unit got involved. Larry Drew's commitment to using his bench both to develop depth* and not to exhaust his starters is theoretically sound. Practically, he lacks the personnel to accomplish either goal without suffering in-game consequences. Jamal Crawford** and Zaza Pachulia are his only (healthy) quality reserves. There are very good reasons why Josh Powell, Jason Collins, and Etan Thomas have not been rotation players in the NBA for years and the drop-off from All-Star starters to sub-replacement level reserves will cause conflict between Drew's desires and the realities of winning basketball games.

*The complete fourth quarter that Jeff Teague (10 points, 6 assists) and Jordan Crawford (11 points on 8 shots) played serves as a positive example of Drew's intentions as well as providing the only possible encouragement the Hawks could take away from this shellacking.

**Jamal Crawford is still a valuable offensive contributor to this team but, as he reverts to his career norms following a career year and has to fit into a team concept which does not suit his particular skills as well as the absolute scoring freedom Mike Woodson gave him, his weaknesses become more apparent with each passing game.

With the possible exception of Jordan Crawford in the extended garbage time, no Hawk acquitted himself well last night. The quartet of Horford, Johnson, Smith, and Bibby was offensively potent enough to score easily early despite sharing the court with Jason Collins. Once they got back on the court in the second quarter, that ability was lost. The four starters combined to score 24 points in the first quarter but just 20 points in the second and third quarters. And this Hawks team has little going for it when its not scoring.

Despite playing for the second night in a row, Corey Maggette (20 points on 8 shots) and John Salmons (16 points on 12 shots) added their names to the list of perimeter players (headed by Mike Conley, Jr.) who have hugely effective against the Atlanta Hawks. Predictably, the young, quick Brandon Jennings (19 points, 6 assists, 1 turnover) had his way with Atlanta's guards. Less predictably, the old, quick Earl Boykins (7 points and 8 assists in 18 minutes) did so as well. With Drew Gooden, Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova, and Jon Brockman controlling the glass I have to believe that this is the Milwaukee Bucks team John Hammond envisioned as he built it this summer. Facing the Atlanta Hawks team some feared seeing as Rick Sund built it this summer: thin in the frontcourt and defensively porous on the perimeter, Hammond's decisions looked eminently sound and his team one the Hawks should want no part of in the first round of the playoffs.

Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball gives Hammond and his team credit for coming alive:
John Hammond may not be Dr. Frankenstein, but he’s definitely looking a lot smarter this week than he did last. The NBA is funny like that.

Isn’t it nice when the Bucks convincingly thrash an opponent the way they did in their 108-91 victory Wednesday night in Atlanta? If the Bucks four wins this season aren’t proof that not all wins are created equal, then I don’t know what is. Margin of victory is flexing its muscles and bullying wins around the playground right now.

Because really, no one was ready to jump back into the Bucks with both feet when they eeked out a four point win in Indiana. Milwaukee still played three quarters of bad basketball that game, only to see Indiana hand them the game. Sure, it counts as a win on the stat sheet, but it wasn’t a sign that the Bucks were any closer to being the team everyone hoped they would be at the start of the season.

But the two wins Milwaukee’s strung together against New York and Atlanta, those are the kinds of wins that show off who the Bucks could be. Pretty good teams handle weaker opponents at home. Only a select few teams can consistently head out on the road and beat quality opponents senseless the way the Bucks did the Hawks on Wednesday. Obviously, the Bucks haven’t been able to do this with any consistency yet, but at least now they know they can. Sometimes, that’s more than half the battle. The Bucks can look into their mirrors on Thursday morning and see a team that’s done some great work this week.
Al Horford:
"I don’t understand what happened between the start of the game and the end of the first quarter. I thought we had a good thing going. We had a lot of energy. It’s one of those things you can’t really explain."
Josh Smith:
"We came out like we wanted to win. In the last three quarters, I don’t know what happened."
Larry Drew:
"That’s a big concern because I’ve always looked at this team as when it gets a little tough, we have a tendency to hold our head down. Anybody can go through stretches where they play well and they win and everybody is high-fiving. When it gets tough, that is when your character really gets tested. When it gets a little tough, I don’t want to see guys hanging their heads. I don’t want to see guys giving up."
Josh Smith:
"We didn't play together. When adversity hit us in the face, we went our separate ways. That's not the team we want to be."
Michael Cunningham on the same old Hawks:
It was one thing for the Hawks to lose to the Suns because they couldn't slow Steve Nash and to the Magic because they couldn't make plays late. But this time the Hawks were outworked by an opponent that had played the night before, and they essentially surrendered instead of responding.


The Hawks had talked about being a different team this season after the strong start to the season and a rare competitive effort against Orlando on Monday. Instead, the Hawks returned home and displayed some of the same traits that led to the Magic sweeping them from the playoffs last spring.

The Hawks' offense bogged down with turnovers and poor execution, and the scoring droughts led to sagging defensive energy. Once the game turned against them, Hawks players bickered at each other instead of digging in.
John Hollinger on the Atlanta reserves:
Believe it or not, Atlanta led this game 22-9 with three minutes left in the first quarter. Just 27 minutes later, they were losing 88-58. Do the math and Milwaukee went on a mind-boggling 79-36 run, outscoring Atlanta by 43 points in that span. The Bucks could have made it worse, too, but called off the dogs to start the final period.

"The minute I started subbing we just went dead in the water," said Drew. "That's probably the third [straight] game that has happened."

It's a jarring change of affairs for the Hawks, because the past two seasons they were accustomed to extending leads in the second quarter when the bench entered. But injuries to Marvin Williams and Maurice Evans have left the team without a true small forward and thrown the entire rotation out of whack.

Nobody has been affected more than Josh Smith, who has slid down to small forward and is still adjusting to the new role, both offensively and defensively. Of particular note was a late first-quarter sequence when Smith conceded wide-open 20-footers to Corey Maggette on successive possessions, jump-starting Milwaukee's rally,

"Josh isn't used to playing guys like that," said Drew, who said it doubly hurt because he couldn't use Smith in a more natural matchup against Ersan Ilyasova. Those two Milwaukee bench players combined for 37 points, and each had more points than any of the Hawks.

Offensively, Smith couldn't space the floor for his teammates the way Williams or Evans can, a weakness exacerbated by the offensively inert Jason Collins starting at center. Collins went scoreless, with his one shot attempt a wide-open, straight-on 15-footer that barely grazed the side of the rim before skidding harmlessly out of bounds.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, they can't stay sound defensively with Smith in his natural 4 spot.

"We can't play too small," said Drew. "Then they'll post up my perimeter guys, so I have to be very careful how I match up at the 3. I played a few minutes with Jamal [Crawford] at 3 and they took him to the post right away."

Atlanta's effort level turned noticeably south once the bench entered late in the first quarter. Crawford made a lily-livered effort at giving up a hard foul to stop a 2-on-1 break, leading to a John Salmons 3-point play, while Smith became agitated by Maggette's buckets and pouted to the sideline.
After just a single exposure, Alex Boeder of Brew Hoop is fed up with watching Jason Collins:
Jason Collins is as bad as it gets, as far as starting NBA players go. And this is a night after watching Timofey Mozgov play center.

As if playing with sincere incredulity that he is in fact starting on an NBA team, Collins did most everything he could to show coach Larry Drew that he is completely out of his league: He started the game with an offensive foul on the team's first offensive possession. A couple minutes later, he passed right to John Salmons for a layup. This earned him a starting spot to kick off the second half, when it took him less than a minute to shoot the flatest shot I have seen this year. With 10 on the shot clock, he threw a wide-open 19-foot set shot at the hoop which, to be fair, did graze the right side of the rim.


CoCo said...

So it seems the bench came in and let the game get out of hand. How long were they allowed to play in order to accomplish this? At what point did the coach say, enough?

Bret LaGree said...

CoCo --

Powell, Crawford, et al played 7:20 straight across the first and second quarters and the Hawks were outscored by 19 points during that stretch.

Drew brought the starters back in (including Collins for 77 seconds) with 7:53 left in the first half. They were outscored by 8 more before halftime.

Unknown said...

Thank you ASG for making us a championship contender! Etan was a huge offseason acquisition and I couldn't be happier with his contributions thus far :)

CoCo said...

Hmmm, so it seems to me he has that mike Woodson tendency to stick to the original game plan regardless of the success. Unless it involves foul trouble.....

Mark Phelps said...

Drew was talking of trying Crawford at the 3, but getting posted up was an issue.

Am I crazy for thinking we should have Joe play more at the 3? He's tall enough, has good weight to not get pushed around, and is a reasonable wing defender.

I realize part of this issue stems from the fact that we'd have Bibby and/or Jamal in the guard slots, which would mean lack of defense at those positions, but if Teague & Jordan could help spell that with some D, it might work. Simply put, Joe fits closely enough to the prototype SF, whereas adding an extra big means that we have to expect some production out of Collins, Thomas, Powell, etc, which seems unlikely.

/armchair coaching.

Unknown said...

this is what happens when all your off-season acquisitions are made with an eye towards beating one team or one player ala d.howard (and ofcourse, we still didn't beat them)

to me prince's acquisition would make sense, we get a 3 who can be a defensive stopper and a floor spacer offensively...though i wouldn't want to lose williams or crawford...heres to dreaming that we can get prince for a pick and resign him to a reasonable contract, kinda like richard jefferson w/ the spurs