6th Fan Blogger: Bucks at Hawks - Game 5 - 4/28/10
Going Dutch with the Dunkin' Dutchman
Quick, name the Buck who tallied these impressive totals over a two-week span. 21 points and 20 rebounds in 32 minutes. 22 points and 12 boards in 33 minutes. 17 points and 14 rebounds in 28 minutes. Give up? Those stat lines belong to Milwaukee's own Dan Gadzuric, and they occurred during the final two weeks of the 2004-05 season.
I won't blame you if you couldn't come up with the answer to that brain-buster, because it has been a while since Danny G replicated that strong stretch of play. Gadzuric may be five years older, but he's now starting to resemble the player that garnered that big offseason contract he received in the summer of '05. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
When Andrew Bogut was lost for the season, it became imperative that Gadzuric and Kurt Thomas bring their games up a few levels. If they didn't, Milwaukee's chances of putting up even the weakest of fights in the playoffs would've decreased substantially. Thankfully for the Bucks, Thomas and Gadzuric have done what was needed, providing desperately-needed defense and energy to the interior. Most might've suspected that the veteran Thomas could do it, but that optimistic feeling didn't spread to Danny G.
Slowly but surely, though, Gadzuric is regaining the confidence and support of his teammates and the fans. Over his last five games -- with the exception of Game 1 of this series -- Gadzuric has provided the hustle and seemingly endless amount of energy that made his so effective five years ago. Forget about Game 1, and Gadzuric is averaging 7.3 points (on 63.6 percent shooting) and 7.5 rebounds in just 19.3 minutes per game. They may not be mind-blowing numbers, but those are the kind of per-minute averages that any team in the NBA would gladly welcome from their backup center.
After watching Gadzuric in the last two games, I can't help but think of what Scott Williams did for the Bucks during their 2001 run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Everybody remembers what Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell did for that team, but there may not have been a more important player than Williams. His playoff averages of 7.2 points and 7.9 rebounds were modest, but it was those intangibles that he brought to the table that made all of the difference.
Those are the intangibles that Gadzuric can provide. Grab a rebound, block a shot, take a charge. Those are the kind of plays that are the difference between winning by a point, or losing by a point, and they take on a whole new level of importance in the playoffs.
For a majority of this season, the center position was almost exclusively paid for by one person: Andrew Bogut. But now, with a little help from the team's resident expert on the practice, the Bucks have been able to go Dutch with the center responsibilities, splitting the duties between Thomas and Danny G.
- Do you think Harry the Hawk feels pressure to match Bango's effort? Does he even attempt to one-up Bango tonight? I can't shake the feeling that he's going to try, but his efforts will no doubt be futile. I'm unable to give a detailed historical perspective of the mascot game, but Bango's Game 4 effort has to go down as the greatest single-game performance in NBA mascot history. Between the ladder dunk and the city-wide assault on Atlanta fans, Bango had the kind of game that mascots go to bed dreaming about. For comparison's sake, his game, in the mascot world, was the equivalent of Wilt Chamberlain dropping 100 points, Magic Johnson totaling 42 points, 15 boards and seven assists as an out-of-position rookie in the NBA Finals, or Hakeem Olajuwon posting a quadruple-double. When was the last time a mascot in any sport went hugely viral with two different stunts in the same game? I submit never, at least not until Monday night.
- Brandon Jennings' start to this game was clutch. I said it prior to Game 1. Getting off to a fast start in a road playoff game is of the utmost importance. If a team doesn't, it'll likely dig itself a hole it won't be able to climb out of. Jennings 14 first-quarter points almost immediately took the Atlanta crowd out of the game. There was a point midway through the frame that Phillips Arena wad dead silent. Jennings single handedly took the crowd out of the game, and gave the Bucks a much greater chance at pulling out a win.
- Is that scratch on the back of Ersan Ilyasova's left arm ever going to heal? It feels like he's had that scratch since the all-star break, and it's not showing any signs of improvement.
- The Hawks can be a fun team to watch when they're out and running, but I get lulled to sleep when they're forced to run what can only loosely be described as a half-court offense. It's isolation after isolation with players taking turns pounding the air out of the ball. It's an eye sore of an offense. Atlanta has a bevy of talented offensive players who can score in 1-on-1 situations, but if those players are cold -- like Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford have been -- it's an extremely boring and ineffective offense.
- What's with this "team role" designation shown when a player is at the free throw line? I'm all about interesting tidbits like what a college player is majoring in, or who a little league player's favorite pro is, but this lame attempt by TNT just isn't cutting it. Do we really need to know that Josh Smith's plays the role of "live wire?" Give me something I can work with here guys. Tell me what Carlos Delfino listens to on his iPod, or if Primoz Brezec prefers the Big Mac over the Whopper. I don't need to know what their team role is. I know what their team role is.
- It's amazing that Kevin McHale can absolutely master the art of the up-and-under, but can't pronounce "Gadzuric" to save his life. I think he's mispronounced it eight different ways tonight. Not that I mind. I love it. I can't wait to see how he butchers it next time.
- The Bucks' centers are getting no love from the officiating crew tonight. I'm aware that Thomas and Gadzuric don't exactly play the cleanest brand of basketball, but they've been on the wrong end of some questionable calls tonight. They have a combined nine fouls through the third quarter in just 26 combined minutes. On average, that's a foul every three minutes. Over the course of a whole game, that would be a combined 16 fouls. Swallow those whistles boys, and just let them play.
- Mike Woodson's goatee is so full and thick that I'm not entirely sure if it's even real. It almost looks too perfect. If toupees are possible, why can't a facial-hair wig be possible? I kind of want to give his goatee a tug just to see if it's real. At the very least, he's hitting up this guy for some of that Just for Men action.
- You've got to be kidding me with Horford's ridiculous banked-in three-pointer from the top of the key. That is the luckiest shot Horford will ever make in his career. I'm pretty sure the shot resulted in a crack in the backboard.
Closing It Out
If there has ever been a time where it was more evident that these Bucks will never say die, it was tonight. The chances of a visiting team coming back from nine down with four minutes left to pull off the kind of win the Bucks did tonight has to be slim to none. For a relatively inexperienced playoff team to finish off a road contest with an 18-5 run feels unprecedented. This kind of win just doesn't happen in the NBA. I'm completely and utterly flabbergasted. My gasts have been flabbered. Or something like that.
Milwaukee, led by John Salmons, played the best perimeter defense I've seen any team play in a long time. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford combined to shoot 10-of-32 and were rarely able to venture into the paint. Salmons and the rest of the backcourt just wouldn't let it happen. Salmons frustrated Johnson straight to the bench, and then promptly forced Crawford into some of the ugliest jumpers I'm sure he's shot all year. Salmons may have struggled from the floor, but his all-court game more than made up for it.
The sheer possibility of the Bucks closing out the Hawks on Friday night and advancing to the second round has me jumping out of my skin. It took me a while to get here, but I'm finally at the point where nothing this team does could surprise me. The Bucks have overcome so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles that I don't think there's anything that's impossible at this point. It scares me to have this kind of optimism, but I'll welcome this feeling into my living room any day of the week and twice on gameday.
Work 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.