6th Fan Blogger: Bucks vs Hawks - Game 7 - 5/2/10
A History of Game 7s
This afternoon's Game 7 contest with Atlanta marks just the ninth Game 7 in Milwaukee Bucks franchise history. Considering the team has played 218 playoff games and is in its 26th postseason, this is a relatively limited amount of Game 7 experience. Throw in the fact that today marks just the third Game 7 in the team's last 23 years, and the Bucks are venturing into uncharted territory.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Game 7s haven't traditionally treated the Bucks very well with the Bucks going just 2-6 in their eight previous Game 7s. Here's a look at those previous Game 7s, starting at the most recent and going backward through time.
2001: Milwaukee's run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001 marked the first and only time the franchise had two Game 7s in one postseason. The first one came at home in the second round against the then Charlotte Hornets. The Bucks used stellar free throw shooting (33-of-35) and great ball movement (26 assists on 32 baskets) to pull off a 104-95 win. Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson combined for 57 points while Sam Cassell doled out 13 dimes.
The second Game 7 has not likely been easily forgotten by most Bucks fans. Following a questionable suspension of Scott Williams, Milwaukee traveled to Philadelphia and lost 108-91 in one of the more poorly-officiated games in recent memory. Robinson, Allen and Cassell combined for 70 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome 44 points from Allen Iverson and 23 points, 19 boards and seven blocks from Dikembe Mutombo.
1987: After advancing past the 76ers in the opening round, the Bucks took the Celtics, the eventual Eastern Conference champions, to the brink before falling by six in Boston. Milwaukee's four losses in the series came by an average of less than six points per game. For the series, the Bucks were outscored by just two points.
1986: After a three-game sweep of New Jersey in the first round, Milwaukee went the full seven with Philadelphia. Coming back from an 18-point loss in Philly, the Bucks put the 76ers away with a one-point win in Milwaukee. The seven-game set seemed to take a lot out of the Bucks as they were swept by Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, losing by an average of 15 points per game.
1981: A 60-win regular season in which the Bucks were second in the NBA in scoring wasn't enough to advance past the second round in the playoffs. They took the 76ers to a Game 7 in Philly, but suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss. Milwaukee's three wins in the series came by nearly 15 points per game.
1980: In their last year as a member of the Western Conference, the Bucks took a Sonics team featuring future Buck Jack Sikma to a seventh game. Up 3-2 with a chance to clinch at home, Milwaukee suffered a tough, one-point loss. The Bucks remained competitive, but it wasn't enough as they fell 98-94 in the decisive Game 7.
1978: In a series featuring five blowout wins, Milwaukee ultimately came up short in the end, falling 116-110 in Denver in Game 7. For the series, the seven wins came by an average of 16.6 points per game, led by 31- and 28-point wins by Milwaukee in Games 3 and 6.
1974: After blowing through the first two rounds, the Bucks met Boston in the NBA Finals. The series went back and forth with Milwaukee pulling out clutch overtime wins in Games 2 and 6. In what would turn out to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's second-to-last season with the Bucks, the team lost Game 7 at home by 15 points to a Celtics team led by John Havlicek and Dave Cowens.
- I'll give the Bucks credit for how they've adjusted to the shot-blocking of the Hawks. Atlanta seemed to send back everything in the paint in Games 1 and 2, but Milwaukee has learned to pump fake and do whatever else is necessary to get a clean look. After averaging 9.5 blocks per game in the first two, the Hawks are averaging just 5.3 blocks in the last four.
- Kurt Thomas hitting two of his first three jumpers is a good sign for the Bucks. Thomas needs to at least offer the threat of hitting that 17-footer, but he's struggled mightily through the first six games. If Thomas is hitting that shot, it makes the pick-and-pop and drive-and-kick that much more potent. If he's not, Atlanta doesn't need to focus on him nearly as much.
- The Bucks have done a pretty good job of masking their height deficiencies this series, but that hasn't been the case through the first 15 minutes. They're being outrebounded by double digits in the early going, including seven offensive rebounds that have led to nine second-chance points.
- I don't know how I haven't noticed this before, but is Mike Bibby a little bowlegged? He seems like he's got a really unusual gait.
- How frustrating is it to hit a three-pointer coming out of the half, and then give it right back on the next possession? A stop and a three was the perfect way to start the half, but then it's completely negated by giving Bibby a wide-open look on the other end. That hurt. And then a few minutes later Josh Smith hits just his second three-pointer OF THE SEASON. Probably not a good omen.
- The Bucks were giving up offensive rebounds by the half-dozen in the first half. Their effort on the glass in the second half has been greatly improved, though, both on the offensive and defensive end. Ersan Ilyasova and The Prince are significantly outsized, but they're working their tails off down low this half. They've combined for eight of the team's 10 offensive boards, including a game-high six from Ilyasova.
Closing It Out
It hurts me to say this, but I think the better team won today. Atlanta's scoring depth, athleticism and size advantages were just too much to overcome. The Hawks have six players who could score 20 points on any given night, a sizeable athleticism advantage and three legitimate big men. Those kind of advantages typically result in sweeps, but the Bucks weren't about to let that happen. They gave Atlanta a fight I'm sure it wasn't expecting. I think Orlando should be putting a thank-you card in the mail tomorrow thanking Milwaukee for putting the Hawks through a battle that will surely have an effect on their second-round play.
I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little disappointing to see such an unsuspectingly successful season end in such a whimper. The Bucks played so well in the last half of the regular season and in Games 3 through 5 of this series, but they just couldn't maintain that level of play. But there's no doubt that Milwaukee's play far exceeded the talent level on this team. Everybody knows about the preseason predictions for this team and, at that time, it was hard to disagree with those forecasts, even for the most optimistic Bucks fan.
The Bucks made everybody, including myself, look absolutely foolish, though. From the coaching staff through the entire 15-man roster, everybody involved in this organization surpassed expectations. And for that, they should be commended. The Bucks gave Milwaukee a slice of hope that hasn't surrounded this franchise for quite some time. For a brief period, they had the entire city united for one cause. Twitter posts, Facebook statuses and everything in between was littered with Fear the Deer. The Bucks gave their fans hope for the present and the future, and you can't put a price tag on hope. It has been a pleasure watching this team play basketball.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.