Game Four Preview: We could have a real series here
Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 1-2
Atlanta Hawks (Mike Woodson) 2-1
TV: NBA TV & FS Wisconsin
Keep Smith Contained
Milwaukee and Josh Smith combined to do a great job stopping Josh Smith in game two. As much as I’d love to slather all the credit on Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, I’ll admit that it seems like Smith just didn’t have the same lift he’d had in the previous few games. Specifically on the offensive glass and in transition, he wasn’t the same. Smith had five dunks and layups in transition and on the offensive glass in game two. Saturday at the Bradley Center, Smith was 1-6 combined in transition and after offensive rebounds. Some of this was good help defense after he grabbed boards, some of this was luck. For the game, Smith was 2-10 at the rim. Don’t expect another performance like that. Milwaukee will just have to make the Hawks top athlete work hard for everything he gets and keep a body on him at all times. Making his life difficult should be the Bucks focus once again.
10 3’s Again?
Okay, so Milwaukee had enough breathing room, they didn’t need all 10 of the threes they hit Saturday. But three point shooting will still more or less define the Bucks for however long this season goes on. Saturday didn’t appear to be much of an aberration either. No Bucks player hit more than three from distance and no one shot over 50% on their three point shots. If anything, the Bucks could expect Carlos Delfino to perform slightly better than he has been lately. Milwaukee’s game is all about moving the ball and finding open shooters and their seven assists on 10 three point shots indicates they did that very well on Saturday. Maybe Milwaukee won’t hit another 10 threes Monday night, but there is some reason to expect another strong performance again on Monday night and not the disastrous ones that were games one and two.
More (or just as much) Gadz
I vividly recall thinking Terry Porter’s biggest mistake in 2004 was not giving Dan Gadzuric virtually any burn in the Bucks first round series against a much larger Detroit Pistons squad. This was back when Gadz was still young and before he got “The Contract”, so everyone loved him and he seemed to have a bright future. I called for him over and over, but he logged just nine minutes in the Bucks 4-1 losing effort of a series. Predictably, as I look back, I see that in those nine minutes his PER was 24.6 and he had the teams’ second best defensive rating.
Now, all these years later, I’m still finding myself wanting Gadz on the court in the post season. Sure, it has a lot to do with Andrew Bogut being out and Kurt Thomas being most productive in limited minutes, but it’s strange how some things stay the same. Gadzuric was a terror in his 17 minutes Saturday night, racking up five fouls and 10 rebounds in classic Gazuric style. He had an absurd 33.2 rebound rate, meaning he grabbed roughly a third of available rebounds while he was on the court. If he plays to his strength, rebounding and running around like a mad man, he can impact this series in a positive way.
Brandon Jennings Early and Often
Jennings started things out with a bang on Saturday, then had plenty of time to rest in the fourth quarter. I can’t see Atlanta coming out with the same lackluster effort that allowed Milwaukee free reign on Saturday, so he’ll likely log more minutes and more meaningful ones Monday night. When Jennings gets the Bucks going they seem to play loads better. If he’s feeling it on Monday night, he should absolutely not be shy about getting his shot off whenever he pleases. Sometimes when he’s feeling it, it seems like he backs off to get other guys involved. I guess that’s the instincts of a guy who’s a classic point guard, but sometimes Milwaukee needs him to take over like he did in game one. I have a lot more confidence in Jennings than I do in a lot of other players on this team
Keep Dodging The Crawford Bullet
The likely sixth man of the year, Jamal Crawford has made a season of blowing up off the bench for the Hawks. This series he’s 11-34 and has served as more of a thorn in the side of Atlanta than Milwaukee. But, this is Jamal Crawford we’re talking about. He’s liable to go off for 30 at any given time. In game one he did some typical Jamal Crawford stuff, pulling up for crazy threes and drilling them to take the air out of the Bucks sails when a potential comeback was on the horizon. Milwaukee will need to keep doing whatever they’ve been doing against Crawford and hope his tough shots keep out of the net.