6th Fan Blogger: Bucks vs Hawks - Game One - 4/17/10
The Do's and Don'ts of Round 1
Do move the ball. The Bucks, for the most part, have been very conscious of moving the ball throughout the season. While they're in the middle of the pack with 21.2 assists per game, they're near the top of the leaderboard with nearly 58 percent of their baskets coming via assist. That percentage is significantly lower in the past two meetings with Atlanta, though, with only 53.4 percent of their baskets coming via assist. Milwaukee needs that number to be around 60 percent if they want to advance. The Bucks simply don't have the one-on-one firepower to succeed with that style of play. Crisp ball movement generally leads to easy shots, and you can never have too many easy shots.
Don't let Joe Johnson get hot. In each of the three meetings this year, Johnson has had stretches where he absolutely took over the game. He's been able to get pretty much any shot he wants. The Bucks can't allow that to happen. First of all, if there are signs that Johnson is about to go off, the team shouldn't hesitate to put The Prince on him. This is the kind of situation in which The Prince excels. I think the Bucks have waited too long to move The Prince onto him in past meetings, and they can't afford the delay in the playoffs. If that doesn't work, the Bucks need to start running another defender at him in order to make the other Hawks beat them. I wouldn't necessarily double off of Mike Bibby or Jamal Crawford, but if they can force Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford to make jumpers, they'll be in good shape.
Do get off to a good start. This is especially true when playing on the road. Getting off to a slow start and falling behind early on the road is a recipe for disaster. Once the Atlanta crowd gets into it, quieting them will become all the more difficult. If the Bucks can keep them quiet from the jump, they stand a better chance of staying within reach throughout the game. Milwaukee's lone trip to the ATL during the regular season may have resulted in a loss, but it was an overtime loss in which the Bucks played the Hawks to a draw in the first quarter. If they can remain within striking distance into the fourth quarter, anything can happen down the stretch.
Don't settle for jumpers. Relying too heavily on three-pointers is a dangerous proposition, and one that leads to losses more often than not. Of the top four teams in the NBA in three-point attempts, only Orlando is still playing, and that's only because it shoots it at a remarkably high percentage. The Bucks have too often settled for three-pointers or long two-pointers, which have resulted in the league's second-lowest shooting percentage. This tendency has only increased since Bogut went down, with Milwaukee averaging 27 three-pointers in the six full games Bogut has missed, which is five more attempts per game than its per-season average. The Bucks need to attack the Hawks at any and every opportunity. Atlanta lacks quality depth on its bench, and Milwaukee needs to take advantage of that by putting Johnson, Smith and Horford to the pine as much as possible.
- Let's review the do's and don'ts after the first quarter. They didn't move the ball, as evidenced by the zero assists in the frame. They could not have gotten off to a worse start, getting outscored by 17 points. They tried to get to the rim, but couldn't finish once they got there, converting just 4-of-9 attempts in the paint. They did do a decent job of containing Johnson, holding him to just four points. Unfortunately the rest of the team shot 13-of-19 from the floor. In summary, they did one of the don'ts and didn't do both do's. One out of four isn't going to cut it.
- Brandon Jennings shot the ball from the perimeter extremely well in the first half, but struggled once he entered the paint. During the offseason, he needs to sit down and watch hours and hours of Tony Parker. Parker spends more time in the paint than anybody and has developed an uncanny knack for either finding the perfect angle to get his shot off or drawing contact. Jennings hasn't really figured out how to do either, which makes scoring in the paint a daunting task.
- Ersan Ilyasova is playing a solid game, but he has to find some stick'em. He's had too many careless turnovers. Other than that, he's played well. He's shooting well, battling in the post and rebounding well.
- You've got to love the way the Bucks came out in the second half. They were massively outplayed in the first half, but they came back in the second half as though the first never occurred. Having a short-term memory is important in all sports, and Milwaukee appears to be suffering from amnesia in the second half. The Bucks followed the do's and don'ts to perfection in the third quarter, moving the ball, not settling for jumpers, containing Johnson and getting off to a fast start. It's a simple mix of ingredients, they just have to put them a bowl and bust out that wire whisk.
Closing It Out
The Bucks may have lost by 10 points today, but I'm coming away feeling pretty good about their situation. Winning Game 1 on the road in any series is an extremely difficult task. I don't have the percentages, but I have to think that it's definitely not in favor of the visitor. You could see the nerves were affecting the team in the first half, but they left those same nerves in the locker room during halftime. The Bucks came, they saw, and they figured out what needs to be done to win.
The game from Brandon Jennings tonight is the kind of game that makes me so excited for the future of this franchise. One would expect a 20-year-old rookie in his first playoff game to struggle finding his way. There was absolutely no sign of any struggles. Jennings obviously shot well and that's probably what most people will take away from this game. Despite his hot shooting, I thought he really let the game come to him. He didn't force anything and took quality shots. Tallying more than three assists would be nice, but that's just nit-picking at this point.
I don't think I've ever felt so good about a double-digit defeat. The Bucks outscored Atlanta in its own house by 12 points in the second half. They found their rhythm both offensively and defensively, and hopefully they can build on this. Milwaukee followed my do's and don'ts -- whether they were right or wrong -- to a tee in the second half. I came into the playoffs hoping not to get swept, hoping to get at least one win. I now feel pretty confident that they can take at least one game, if not three or four. I just hope the Bucks share that confidence.
Word hard. Play hard. Type hard.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.