Game the Fifth: Can the Bucks steal one on the road?
Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 2-2
Atlanta Hawks (Mike Woodson) 2-2
Time: 7:00 (CST)
TV: TNT/FS Wisconsin
“Most teams, the role players play better at home.”
– Jerry Stackhouse after game four
So Stack already has me a little concerned for game five. After notably strong efforts out of Dan Gadzuric, Carlos Delfino and Kurt Thomas in their game tying win on Monday, Milwaukee will need to once again get more out of their role players than Atlanta. That’s true of any team, everyone likes to get more out of their secondary players, but it’s especially true for a team like Milwaukee that’s featuring their role players much more heavily. One could argue that Atlanta has only three or four role players they’ll trot out there (Jamal Crawford, Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams and if you want to label him as a role player, Al Horford), but Milwaukee has two main men in Brandon Jennings and John Salmons, flanked by role players. What’s nice about this is that it’s difficult to project which one will step up. What’s bad about this, is that it’s not always the case that anyone steps up. It’s tough to expect Carlos Delfino to hit another six threes, but if he can hit half of his threes and Ersan Ilyasova has another strong game, Milwaukee may not need much more than strong performances again out of Jennings and Salmons to pull this one out.
“We’ll get some good 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.”
– Scott Skiles after game four
What was so evident during games three and four was that Milwaukee really controlled the game and refused to lose their grip. It was quite an opposite story when these teams last met in Atlanta. If Atlanta is getting out in open space and getting Milwaukee frazzled, it’s likely the Bucks won’t prevail. So how can Milwaukee keep control? It starts with making shots. It’s no wonder that Atlanta’s fast breaking ways were stifled when the Bucks were hitting over 50% of their shots and better than 40% of their threes. Atlanta was able to run freely on lots of long misses by Milwaukee in the first two games when the Bucks combined to go just 10-44 on three-point shots. The more Milwaukee makes their threes, the fewer extra opportunities the Hawks have to push the tempo. Atlanta will still frequently run off turnovers, but giving them extra chances for easy hoops with long rebounds is what really hurt the Bucks in games one and two.
“I haven’t gotten my shot blocked as much (laughs).”
– Brandon Jennings after game four
In a light-hearted moment after his sparkling game four performance, Jennings answered a question about attacking the Hawks larger defenders on switches by first acknowledging it’s clear he’s done better because he hasn’t gotten blocked as much. And while it was funny, it was also a stark reminder of how things were in games one and two. Jennings alone was blocked nine times in the first two games of this very series and the Bucks 19 times as a team. Atlanta had just two blocks in game four and numerous times bit on fakes by Milwaukee players who were able to draw fouls. Keeping the Hawks off balance with fakes and using good judgment inside the paint will again give Milwaukee a fighting chance in game five.