NBA Playoffs, Bucks Hawks game 5: Atlanta fears the deer now

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Jennings_win.jpgAtlanta fears the deer now.

This was supposed to be easy. The Hawks have athletes all over the floor, they are the more physically gifted team in this series. The Bucks were without Andrew Bogut. But the Hawks play like Nuke LaLoosh — million-dollar arm and a five-cent head.

With game five — and maybe the series — on the line the Hawks got tight, they stopped executing. Up nine with four minutes left their offense became a predictable and defendable series of isolations that went away from their strengths. Meanwhile, the Bucks kept coming, kept executing, kept getting the mismatches they liked and attacking them. They kept their heads. They won the loose balls. They went on a 14-0 run.

The Bucks won 91-87 and are now up 3-2 going back home to the Bradley Center for game six Friday night.

Folding up late in games is not some new thing for the Hawks, it’s a season-long trend. Their execution goes away, their play calling is poor and/or ignored. At some point, that responsibility has to fall on coach Mike Woodson. He has not made an adjustment to counter Milwaukee’s destroying the Hawks switch on the pick and roll. That play and the Hawks late game play combined into one big disaster late.

Early in the game the Hawks tried to exploit their advantage and size inside — and it worked. Marvin Williams was attacking, dunking and hit four of five. Josh Smith and Al Horford were getting good looks. The only thing that kept the Bucks in it was Brandon Jennings, who kept going around the pick, getting a Hawk big to switch on him them blowing by for a layup, or hitting the jumper over him. Jennings started 5 of 7 while the rest of team was 4 of 14 in first quarter.

Late in the game, it was John Salmons doing the same thing off the same plays for the Bucks, and he had eight points of their 14-0 run.

Late in the game Hawks stopped going inside, they stopped making good passes into the post. They went to isolations, and the result was help on drives where the Hawks missed layups.

Joe Johnson fouled out with 2:15 left and his final two fouls were the kind of thing the Hawks did wrong all night. He closed out late on a Jennings jumper and fouled him. Six came on an offensive charge where he drove the lane, kicked out to a shooter and barreled into Kurt Thomas anyway.

Meanwhile, Bucks were making plays. Ersan Ilyasova made a fantastic save of a ball going out of bounds under the basket, recovers, gets position, the ball back and scores inside. Next possession he runs in hard to catch offensive rebound, gets it to Carlos Delfino open in the corner for the three (Mike Bibby made the mental error of reacting as if the shot clock was reset, doesn’t run out at Delfino, and let him set his feet).

The Hawks ignored their advantages — Williams posting Luke Ridnour — due to bad spacing and indifference.

This was not a matter of desire — both teams wanted it, both teams played hard. But the Bucks have been coached to execute under pressure, to play the system. The Hawks have not. Ballgame. And maybe series.

Lou Williams hits halfcourt buzzer-beater (video)

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Yeah, the Lakers lost to the Rockets, 134-95, Wednesday. But consider how lopsided that margin would’ve been without Lou Williams‘ halfcourt buzzer-beater.

And if this headline looks familiar, it is.

LeBron James, Cavaliers do water-bottle challenge on bench during blowout win over Knicks (video)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson entertain themselves by flipping a water bottle trying to get it to land on it's flat bottom during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 126-94, and most starters left the game for the bench at the end of the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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LeBron James did his part – scoring 25 points (on just 10 shots!), dishing seven assists and grabbing six rebounds – to give the Cavaliers an insurmountable lead over the Knicks through three quarters. So, he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

As Cleveland put the finishing touches on its 126-94 win, boredom set it. LeBron and a few of his teammates tried to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor. LeBron even dove onto the court to pull the bottle back in after an errant flip!

No, Phil Jackson should not have used the word “posse” to describe LeBron’s business associates and friends. But this is the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen – and I love it.

DeMarcus Cousins says Mavericks’ rumored interest flatters him, but he loves Kings

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) receives a blow to the head from Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Powell as Cousins works to get to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in DeMarcus Cousins took its most direct public turn before the season, when Dallas signed Cousins’ brother, Jaleel Cousins. Jaleel is now on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, and I bet he will remain there as DeMarcus approaches 2018 free agency.

Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

So, DeMarcus Cousins, what do you think about the Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in acquiring you?

“It’s flattering,” Cousins told me, with a laugh, after the Kings’ Wednesday shootaround at AAC. Then, turning serious, he added of the Mavericks, “I respect them.”

“But,” I said, “I’ve also heard that you like it in Sacramento.”

“No,” Cousins corrected, “I love Sacramento.”

Cousins is getting good at this, toeing the line between appreciating another team’s interest and expressing his satisfaction with the Kings.

And give Cousins credit. He keeps producing at a star level for a team that hasn’t provided him with the proper support. Sacramento again appears headed toward the lottery, even as Cousins averages 29-10.

Questions remain, though: How much of Cousins’ attitude is him trying to make the best of an inescapable situation, and will expanded options in the summer of 2018 test his loyalty?

LeBron James dunks, struts past camerapeople and toward crowd, spooks fan (video)

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LeBron James is dominating, and the Cavaliers are rolling over the Knicks.

It’s almost as if something has LeBron particularly riled up. But maybe ease up a little? That cowering fan isn’t Phil Jackson.