The Hawks closed out the Milwaukee Bucks 95-74 in Sunday’s game seven. The Hawks looked dominant in games six and seven and perhaps garnered a little confidence and momentum heading into their second round series with the Orlando Magic. The Hawks won the last two games by playing suffocating defense and controlling the backboard both offensively and defensively. Perhaps the biggest shot in the arm to the team was the fact that they were able to close out the Bucks without much offensive contribution from Joe Johnson. Johnson however was key defensively.
It is that mentality of making the appropriate pass and taking the appropriate shot combined with tenacious defense that they must carry over from this series into the next one. The fact that the Hawks won this series with their backs pressed firmly against the wall is a cause for both concern and rejoice. Concern that they allowed themselves to be put in that position by a team that they were simply more talented than and rejoice that once against the wall, they responded by answering the challenge.
“A lot of you wrote us off and it’s a shame because, if you understand playoff basketball, anything is possible. These guys didn’t stop believing after that Game 5.”
“As we move forward, it has got to stay consistent as far as how we defend and rebound. The only way we got out of this series is defend. We did that in Milwaukee, holding them to 69 points and tonight 74 points. It was our defense that came through for us in this series.”
“All those people that wrote us off, they don’t dribble one ball up and down that court, they don’t shoot a jump shot, they don’t rebound the ball, they don’t get defensive stops and they surely don’t coach the team. It ain’t about all these people outside our circle. Any team will say that. It’s about the people who go to battle and work in the locker room. I could care less about what you guys write or say.”
You can’t really blame him for sniping at his critics too much. Most of them had his departure as little more than a formality had the Hawks in fact lost to the Bucks. I am still not convinced that he should relax or feel too confident. The fact is that once he was backed into the same corner as his team he responded by making some necessary adjustments and the team responded as well. Mike Woodson is always going to be this teams problem at least within public perception. I’m fine with that and his I told you so comments as long as they produce results.
Game seven can’t really be wrapped up in my opinion without talking a little about Mike Bibby. Bibby was all over the place in this game and gave a lot more effort and energy than I can recall in some time. His energy seemed to energize his teammates as well. Bibby was closing out on jump shooters, fighting for rebounds, taking charges, and attacking on offense. Glimpses like this show you how valuable a point guard is to a team especially when its leading scorer is struggling offensively. It remains to be seen how long Bibby can sustain such effort but the Hawks need that going forward. In fact to be successful in this next series the Hawks are going to have to get something unexpected from someone. Bibby would be a great place to start.
An unlikely seven game series turned into an unlikely series victory for the Hawks. They showed the full spectrum in this series. A focused lot early in games one and two, a disinterested group in games three and four, a good effort but collapse at the end in game 5, and then two gritty defensive performances that had to make their defensive minded coach smile. So what can we expect going forward? The Hawks will be a decided underdog in this next series which is something that they seem to respond to a lot better than being the favorite.
Also worth mentioning is the play of the Bucks in this series. It would have been real easy for them to fold up after the gAndrew Bogut injury. They came back and played some great basketball and survived mostly on will and determination and the stellar performance of rookie Brandon Jennings. Scott Skiles showed us all what kind of coach he is and hopefully he is in for a long tenure in Milwaukee. It was the Bucks tenacity that made this series painful for the Hawks fan but enjoyable to the basketball fan in all of us.