Before diving into the recap of this game I want to point out that you can only talk the X’s and O’s so much. Ultimately X’s and O’s didn’t matter in this game at all. It all comes down to effort defensively and when you are slow rotating or not interested in defending at all then games like this one happen. Sure the Bucks made some shots tonight and received an emotional lift from the home crowd but the fact is many of those shots came with little or no resistance. As putrid as the Hawks were on offense, this game was lost defensively and on the backboard.
The Hawks are now 1-8 in their last nine road playoff contests. Those losses have been by an average margin of 24 points. That is simply not showing up ready to compete. Speaking of not showing up. Much was made of Josh Smith’s pre game comments and what the crowd reaction would be. While I didn’t think the crowd was that tough on Smith he clearly had a rough game in this one. For the night he finished with just 7 points and 3 defensive rebounds. He was non existent on defense and basically appeared to have quit early in this game. Now Josh wasn’t the only problem out there tonight but how much longer do we have to put up with these complete disappearing acts and questionable attitude? He needs to grow up. He ran his mouth to the press and then failed to back it up. His night was summed up when late in the 3rd quarter Mike Woodson finally yanked him from the game and he received a delay of game warning for walking slowly off the court. I’m not talking about him anymore in this recap because I spent most of the week singing his praises and now I feel cheated.
The Bucks were not able to buy a three point shot in the first two games but made 10 of them tonight. The three point shot is a great equalizer for a team with less talent. Any night you can shoot a great percentage then you have a chance to win. Tonight the Hawks rotations were slow, and if you are going to switch that can’t happen. Many of those three point attempts in the first two games were contested. Tonight many were not. John Salmons scored 22 points in only 31 minutes and looked like an all star while doing it. Brandon Jennings was hot early scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter and helped to stake the Bucks to that big early lead.
Offensively the Hawks failed to get Al Horford involved early for whatever reason. That has been a reoccurring theme on the road and completely goes against what this team did in the first two games. At the 7:51 mark in the third quarter Horford had 2 points and 2 rebounds. He would finish with 10 points but only 3 rebounds. In fact the Bucks whom had been dominated inside in Atlanta made the Hawks look small tonight winning the battle on the boards yet again. Another telling stat for the Hawks was 16 assists on 34 makes. There was way too much dribbling and not enough ball movement. In games one and two the ball was fed into the post and the Bucks had to adjust to that. Tonight no adjustment was made necessary.
Joe Johnson was the only player that didn’t look tentative on offense and helped the Hawks to cut the lead to 9 points early in the third quarter. However, with no other threat offensively it led to Johnson trying to go through the teeth of the Bucks defense. For the night Johnson scored 25 points on 9-22 shooting. The other four Hawks starters combined to score thirty one.
The bench once again tonight just added to the problems and the Hawks desperately need them to play better. Jamal Crawford is averaging 11 points per game in the series and shooting 32% from the floor. Jamal takes so many tough shots and typically those don’t go down as frequently in the playoffs as they do in the regular season. Still the Hawks could really use an explosion from #11 soon. Mo Evans has done virtually nothing offensively this series and ZaZa Pachulia hasn’t played a lot better. Pachulia scored 16 points in game 3 but many of which came during garbage time. Maybe seeing the ball go through the basket will get him ready for game 4.
In summary this game was a stinker for the Hawks from the opening tip. It seemed very obvious to everyone that the Bucks were going to come out focused and ready but it also seemed that many of the Hawks missed that memo. The Bucks were the desperate team. The Hawks were the complacent one. The Hawks had a big lead in games one and two and let the Bucks chip away at it. The Bucks got a big lead in this one and then buried the Hawks. This game wasn’t about getting creative on defending screen rolls it was about wanting it more than the opponent. It is about effort and intensity and tonight the Hawks were no match for the Bucks.
So the question is how damaging is this loss? Will the Hawks bounce back in game 4 and take command of the series back. I think it is highly unlikely that the Bucks will be satisfied with their one win especially with the way they dominated the Hawks tonight. So there is a lot of questions to be answered mostly by the Hawks. The Bucks will bring it again in game 4. The biggest question is will the Hawks bother to show up?
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