“Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity.”

- Eminem

There are reasons inside this one big reason why the Bucks had all kinds of problems with the Hawks Monday night, but we all know there is one reason that looms large:

Andrew Bogut in street clothes.

The trickledown effects of Bogut being out appeared so severe Monday night, that I’m not sure I see any way the Bucks could be able to overcome them four times in seven games.  Of course, that’s what Milwaukee would need to do if they want to beat the Hawks in a playoff series.  And with the Bucks 104-96 loss Monday night, combined with the Heat’s two point victory over Philadelphia, it’s looking awfully likely that the Bucks will now end up playing Atlanta in the series this city wants to avoid.

The games are less fun, the Hawks aren’t very villainy and the Bucks chances seem infinitely lower against Atlanta.

Aside from the obvious reasons (he’s Milwaukee’s best player and best defender), why is Bogut’s absence magnified so greatly against the Hawks?  First, it’s the switching.  Oh my, the switching.  This is one thing that sets Atlanta apart as a defensive team and speaks to their versatility.  Any time Milwaukee runs a pick and roll, Atlanta straight up switches it.  If Kurt Thomas comes and sets a screen for Brandon Jennings, Al Horford will guard Jennings and Joe Johnson wil guard Thomas.  And it doesn’t leave Atlanta in a bad spot.  Horford is skilled enough as a perimeter defender that he makes it difficult for Jennings to get by him for an easy hoop.

Coach Scott Skiles wasn’t thrilled with his guards’ efforts in attacking in these situations.

“They’re switching centers onto our guards.  A pro guard has got to be able to go by a center and do something.  That’s the reality of it.  We took way too many jumpshots.  It’s something we’ve got to be much better at.  Nothing against Al or Zaza (Pachulia), but if those guys are switching onto point guards or two guards, you’ve got to make them pay.”

But with Josh Smith lurking in the shadows behind the big guys on the outside, getting by the bigs and to the rim with success is easier said than done.

“When you’re switching a guy and you got Josh Smith on you, you think you can just take him to the rack but, he’s a guy who can move and he’s a great shot-blocker.  It’s kind of real tough, we’re standing a lot on offense, not a lot of ball movement.”

So ball movement may be the answer?

“Well, you can’t just pass and keep going through.  You gotta try and attack but, you know, you got somebody under there and guys just keep rotating.  I think their length is unbelievable.  They’re like an AAU team. “

If only the Bucks had a way to exploit any mismatches they did have on these switches.  After all, Mike Bibby was on the court for 34 minutes, isn’t there a better way to attack him on the pick and roll.  Ah, that’s where Bogut’s injury comes into play again.  Sure, Kurt Thomas, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Ersan Ilyasova are all much bigger than Bibby, but how often are any of them looking to back a guy down?  The last time these teams met, I counted three separate occasions in which LRMAM either got the ball on a swing or grabbed an offensive rebound with Bibby on him and failed to attack.  Without Bogut, there are very few easy shots for the Bucks.

No, without Bogut, the Bucks are taking lots of long shots and looking at some long games ahead of them.  The reality is, life without Bogut isn’t going to be pretty for the Bucks come playoff time.  And this is just the start.

Offense

At first glance, a few things stand out in the box score.  One is the Bucks shooting percentage, again less than 40%.  That’s not on the map that gets teams to a win.  Another is the turnovers.  Milwaukee had just four turnovers and 20 assists.  So what’s this talk about ball-movement?  Milwaukee must have been moving the ball and finding guys, right?  Not according to Coach Skiles.

“I think I can argue that a lot of our shots were turnovers.”

Well then.  I guess that would explain the poor shooting percentage and lack of turnovers in a concise and impactful way.  Milwaukee was 11-32 on threes, probably part of what Coach Skiles was referring to.

  • As is per usual, John Salmons again led the way for Milwaukee, scoring efficiently and often, finishing with 28 points (9-18 FG 3-6 3FG 7-9 FT).  Salmons was one of the few Bucks able to attack, but he does hold the ball a bit long on occasion.  On top of that, when Salmons is holding the ball, it often seems like other players are standing around waiting for him to make the first move.  This is exactly the type of thing both Jennings and Skiles were referring to as detrimental.
  • What does a bad night for Ersan Ilyasova look like?  Try 2-11 FG and four fouls with just four rebounds to his credit.  Ilyasova typically makes a living on the offensive glass putbacks, but he had just two offensive boards and was generally ineffective against the Hawks.  The Bucks really could have used a nice game from Ilyasova too, they got almost nothing out of Primoz Brezec and Dan Gadzuric (0-1 FG, 2 PF and one Brezec moment where he tripped over his own feet, in a combined eight minutes).

Defense

  • Points in the paint: Atlanta 52 – Milwaukee 20.
  • Rebounds: Atlanta 48 – Milwaukee 34.
  • Blocked shots: Atlanta 11 – Milwaukee 1.

Is it clear who owned the inside in this one?

Remember what I wrote about Josh Smith before the game?  You don’t?  That’s okay, it’s still on the interweb, so I’ll just bust it back out.

…don’t expect big block numbers from Smith.  Unless he’s getting Jerry Stackhouse or flying across the paint.  The Bucks move the ball well, so if he’s flying around they can take advantage.

That was me saying Josh Smith wouldn’t block a lot of shots.  He had six.  To my credit, I assumed the Bucks would be moving the ball well, instead of getting their shots tossed all over the arena.  Smith fed off the Bucks lack of “second level” ball movement.  I’m referring to the movement that comes after the first defender is beat.  Milwaukee lacked that Monday night.

  • And by the way, is everyone else more concerned with Joe Johnson than Paul Pierce at this point?  Pierce is very good, but Johnson is just bonkers.  Post-ups, jumpers, threes, drives to the basket, you name it, this guy was doing it against the Bucks again.  12-19 FG 4-6 3FG 3-4 FT all added up to 31 points and an even more prominent place inside the Bucks scouting reports going forward.

Final Thoughts

There’s very little that I enjoyed about this game.  Among the things I least enjoyed was knowing that this loss makes it all the more likely Milwaukee will now be playing the Hawks in round one.  The Hawks team that looks to own the Bogut-less Bucks.  Atlanta can handle “small ball” better than any team in the league and are more than capable of matching up when a team goes big.  They can adjust to any style and frequently dictate the game.  Or the exact things the Bucks were looking to do without their center.  Milwaukee seemed to take this loss as a learning experience though.  They certainly won’t roll over against anyone.  But that doesn’t mean Atlanta won’t roll the Bucks over themselves.