A Whole New Series: Bucks 111 – Hawks 104


Check out the reaction by the Bucks bench. Priceless.

If it hadn’t been done before, and it’s probably foolish that it wasn’t, the word “can’t” was officially removed from the dictionary on the Milwaukee Bucks 2009-10 season. It’s uses were once prevalent. Milwaukee can’t get to the line. They can’t score inside without Andrew Bogut. Brandon Jennings can’t finish. The Bucks can’t hang with the Hawks in the playoffs.

Can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t. These Bucks seem to know not of this word. Every time the rest of the world decides they aren’t capable of doing something, they go on and do it anyway. Milwaukee shot 32 free throws Monday night. They outscored the Hawks in the paint 44-26. Jennings was 9-16 from the field and didn’t hit a 3-pointer.

And the Bucks tied up their first round series with the Hawks at two.

In front of a raucous crowd with only a few pockets of empty seats in a sold out Bradley Center, the Bucks squeezed every last drop of effort out of 10 different players and played as close to flawless a game as they have without Bogut. The Bucks, a team once known for their selfishness on the court and corrosive chemistry off of it, relied on the formula that’s been working for them all season: above average ball movement and a sense of togetherness I haven’t seen in Milwaukee.

Asked about this being one of those games the old Bucks used to lose, Jerry Stackhouse had a very appropriate answer after the game:

I don’t know any of them old Bucks teams.

Can’t? Not these Bucks, not yet.

Offense

That 44-26 edge in points in the paint I mentioned earlier was no joke, and it all started with Jennings. For the very first time in his NBA career, Jennings shot over 50% in a game in which he failed to connect on a 3-point basket. Time and time again his failures inside have been documented, but Jennings forgot all about those on Monday. He repeatedly got in the lane against the Hawks Monday night and converted. Coach Skiles had been harping that Bucks guards needed to do a better job attacking the Hawks bigger defenders on switches, and Jennings did just that all night. Not only was he converting his own shots, but he found Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for a few open layups inside with some sweet interior passing. 23 points (9-16 FG 0-3 3FG), six assists and one turnover for the “rookie”.

  • Jennings was huge again, but Carlos Delfino stole the show early. Through three games, the chorus was the same, “if Delfino gets it going, the Bucks might be tough to beat.” Well, he got it going in a big way. Delfino had 13 in the first and never looked back. Carlos finished with 22 points (8-14 FG 6-8 3FG), one big dunk, four rebonds, three assists and a fresh batch of confidence. Delfino’s first three rattled around and hit virtually every part of the rim before nestling in the bottom of the net. His thoughts on it:

I’ll take it. For me personally, the ball falls through the net, I don’t know how, but I’ll take it.

  • 55.1% shooting? Milwaukee hit 7-18 on 3-point attempts, not as sparkling as Atlanta’s 10-19 effort from deep, but won this one inside. When I say inside, I don’t mean Milwaukee was tossing it to Kurt Thomas or Dan Gadzuric on the block, though. Milwaukee was penetrating like they rarely had this year. John Salmons was consistent as ever in this field (22 points 6-9 FG 10-10 FT), but it was Jennings and Delfino and company who really took this part of their game to another level Monday night. When asked if a win without relying on 3-point attempts was a revelation, Coach Skiles had this to say:

The revelation is more how many free throws we shot. It’s important for us at some point early in the game, because we penetrate usually pretty well and are pretty unselfish, that we’ll get some open three looks early in the game. It could be any number of guys, but it’s important that somebody steps up and knocks a couple down early and gets us feeling good about ourselves offensively. That’s what happened with Carlos tonight.

Defense

You often hear about veterans and their tricks defensively, but it’s not always clear if it’s a myth that they actually have these tricks up their sleeves. Let me assure you, it’s no myth with Kurt Thomas. All night long, Thomas was prodding the Hawks with little forearms off the ball, physical play and extra long screens. When Hawks guards tried to blow through him, he’d go down. When Hawks players would penetrate, he’d go down. Thomas nestled inside the Hawks heads at some point and was laughing about it by the fourth quarter. He helped limit Al Horford to just eight points and eight rebounds on a night Horford fouled out. I asked Thomas about his tricks, only to see him start to beam like a proud parent before breaking out in laugh.

“That’s a part of the game. Do what you can, try to keep them guessing and not let them see the same defensive coverages every time and try to keep them on their toes.”

  • I swear, at the end of the third quarter, everyone in the Bradley Center had forgotten about Dan Gadzuric’s contract and was just thrilled to see him on the court. In a classic Gadzurician moment, Danny G. blocked a Joe Johnson layup attempt out of bounds and then converted on a bunny that he almost fumbled away just before the final buzzer in the third quarter sounded. Gadz may have only had seven points, five rebounds and two blocks, but his energy was a catalyst for the Bucks in the first half and then again in third quarter in which they pushed their lead to 11.
  • Josh Sm…BOOOOOOO

Jo….BOOOOOOO

It was that kind of night at the Bradley Center. Whenever, umm, a certain Hawks forward, caught the ball, a chorus of boos rained down like a nasty thunderstorm. He had a nice bounce back game, 20 points (7-11 FG 1-1 3FG 5-6 FT), nine rebounds, two steals and a block, but Milwaukee didn’t allow this certain athletic Hawks player to get his transition game going. His numbers looked good, but his impact was demonstratively smaller than it had been in the first couple games. Keeping him and the rest of the Hawks from running (just eight fast break points for Atlanta) when this one gets back to Atlanta will be huge.

Final Thoughts

Well, at this point, this is up in the air. We could have a series that features one home team win after the next, we could see Atlanta figure it out and win the next two or watch Milwaukee steal one on the road before finishing it out at home. Throw out the seeding, throw out the regular season and every game this series, it’s a best two out of three between two teams that know they can beat one another. Milwaukee will certainly savor a win in a game that Atlanta shot 47.5/52.6/85.7. While the Bucks were capable defensively, the Hawks were still able to have a pretty good night from the field. That tells Milwaukee if they play their game and hit their shots, they can survive even a good night from the Hawks. Confidence is high and it seems like the Bucks can’t wait to get to Atlanta.

I guess I’ll let a can’t slide right there.

Categories: Playoff talk,Recaps

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in…

12 Comments

  1. Game five will be interesting. The Hawks will have renewed energy – not as strong as game one, but more than the 2 games in Milwaukee. I don’t think the Bucks will be supprised this time.

    A couple other notes:

    -I had to laugh a couple of times during the last 2 games watching Kurt Thomas. As you mention, he has all of those veteran moves (I was going to say tricks!). Early on they (the veteran moves) were annoying the Hawks – later in the game, they were causing fouls because the Hawks were reacting.

    -It seemed that the Hawks were focused on a couple of players in game 4. They were not focused on Delfino (he had horrible shooting nights in games 1, 2 & 3, but lit it up in game 4), Danny G (I’ve been critical of him, but he had great game 3 & 4) and Jennings/Ridnour (OK, to be fair, they couldn’t keep up with either Jennings or Ridnour)

    -Probably the most important point . . . in game 3 & 4, the Hawks were off their game. Look for this to change in game 5. I also expect the Hawks to be a bit cocky . . . we’ll see.

    I think Jennings is right, the pressure is on the Hawks right now, because no one expects Milwaukee to win. The Bucks need a strong defensive game, they need Delino & Thomas’s offense (wasn’t there in game 1 & 2) and they need to see a strong game from Danny G (gotta love that jumper!).

  2. Can’t agree with you more Jeremy. The Bucks have been overcoming adversity all year. Game 5 will be plenty adverse. I still haven’t heard a commentator say that the Bucks CAN win this series. They just say its all tied up at 2-2.

    I was fortunate to attend Game 3 in Milwaukee, one of the best nights of my life.

  3. Luke "The American"

    Danny G was “killing it” TJ Lavin style last night. Bango’s ladder dunk was truely amazing, he left the bradley center crowd with BANGO FEVER!!!

  4. It seems like the Hawks start to mentally fall apart whenever they don’t get calls or hit shots (with the exception of J. Johnson) I think this should be a major concern for the Hawks. If the Bucks can get the Hawks to start barking at each other and their coach they may be able to steal one in Atlanta.

  5. Ok people lets be real. The hawks have 3 all stars (JJ, J smoov, Al). They’re done playing games with the bucks. The hawks will win this series, but will not be able to contend against orlando. Haha and if the bucks face them (which they wont) orlando would sweep them. its just so funny so see the bucks tie up the series 2-2. Buck fans-its going to be a painful game 5.

    • Let’s not forget that two of those three all stars are looking severely cowed. And last night even the stalwart Johnson noted that the Hawks seem to lack the mental toughness of the Bucks. I don’t think that was a pep talk — sounded more like the voice of a guy who can’t wait to pack it up for another town next season! He’ll probably keep scoring in the next couple of games anyway — it’s what he does — but the Hawks have a serious morale problem. They’re the ones now who have to prove whether another home game will alleviate it.

      As for Orlando, it would be tough. But can you imagine how fun that Gadzuric-Howard matchup would be!

    • The Hawks would get swept by Orlando too.

      The Hawks need make some changes in their roster at the 3 and 5. The Hawks will never make the Eastern past the 2nd round with Al Horford as their starting 5 and Williams starting at 3. It’s one thing for the Hawks to be able to beat a team like the Celtrics who start Kendrick Perkins at 5, its another to play Orlando with Howard or even Cleveland with Shaq. Horford is great trade bait for Atlanta to make themselves into a real contender, that is granted that they can re-sign Johnson. Trade Horford for something like Kevin Love and Corey Brewer or JaVale McGee and Josh Howard/Al Thornton or Caron Butler and Brenden Haywood or OJ Mayo and Marc Gasol.

  6. BTW, I heard Jim Rome and Scott Van Pelt talking about the Bango stunt on the radio today.

    • Anyone else think it’s sad that our mascot is getting more dap at the national level than our actual team is? No offense to Bango, he’s the man

  7. Danny G should get more minutes. i’ve been saying this all season. Kurt thomas is solid, but getting old. after all he is the second oldest player in the league.
    And primoz brezec is such a bum. after delfinos dunk, the whole bench was jumping and cheering, except for brezec. i think he was the third guy. he just sat there like it was nothing special.