NBA Playoffs, Bucks Hawks game 4: Fear the deer, pity the Hawks defense

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Delfino_game.jpgYou know what the Hawks are going to do on every pick and roll. I know it. Every hoops fan knows it — the Hawks switch. They think their bigs — Al Horford, Josh Smith — are quick enough and long enough to bother point guards into bad shots.

Not Brandon Jennings. All night in game four (and through large parts of game three) he abused the Hawks bigs. Half of his 16 shots came as layups, four more came right on the edge of the key. On those he was 9 of 12. He was killing the Hawks because the Bucks got the matchup they wanted, and they isolated it.

Atlanta tried some traditional pick-and-roll defense, but the guards showed no passion to fight through the pick. Even if he did fight through it, Jennings blows by Bibby faster than Smith or Horford. The Hawks live and die with their athletic bigs partially for that reason.

For one more night, they died. Now a series where the Hawks were huge favorites is 2-2 heading back to Atlanta after a 111-104 Milwaukee win. It’s a best of three and the Bucks look good.

The Bucks have made their adjustments and they are playing with Scott Skiles coached energy — they are just fun to watch because of the passion. The Hawks have not matched the adjustments or intensity. The Bucks have exposed the three seed in the east — even if they get out of this series, what do you think the Magic will do to Atlanta in the next round?

The Hawks problems start on defense — they have all season. This is a team that needs to get out and run, needs those easy transition baskets. But despite all the athletes, they are average on defense (14th in the league in defensive efficiency at 104 points per 100 possessions). They don’t create the turnovers. They don’t get the stops. They don’t get the rebounds. Especially on the road.

Can’t run when you’re taking the ball out of the basket. And the Bucks shot 55 percent as a team. Carlos Delfino was 6 of 8 from three. John Salmons was 6 of 9 and got to the free throw line 10 times. My god, Dan Gadzuric was 3 for 3. The Bucks hit buckets.

Forced into their halfcourt routine it’s pretty much the Joe Johnson show for the Hawks, he had 29 on 50 percent shooting. Josh Smith was better, 20 points on 7 of 11. Bibby was 5 of 7 from three. Crawford had 21 on 50 percent shooting. They didn’t really have bad numbers, but it wasn’t pretty.

The Hawks want the quick strike, and if they can’t run they want a three. They pas up more decent inside shots for kick-out threes than any team not in the Bay Area. Without Bogut the Hawks need to attack inside, but Kurt Thomas stopped them tonight. Thomas should not stop them.

Thomas flopped a couple times and got calls (no way, no how Bibby knocks Thomas over like Mike is suddenly Earl Campbell). Some borderline calls went to the Bucks, but the Hawks got caught up in that. They stopped playing their game. They stopped attacking.

It all may change in a few days back in Atlanta. But there will be a game six. And the Bucks are hungry, they have tasted the blood in the water and they are in a feeding frenzy. The Hawks are going to have to find themselves and some defensive energy again to win this series.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

Minnesota Timberwolves Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: