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.

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

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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: