Tag: Hawks Bucks

Jamal Crawford to be announced as Sixth Man of the Year today

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The press release came out late last night, just after media members had filed stories about the Hawks crumbling on the road again — a crawford_game.jpgmajor announcement in Atlanta at 3 p.m. today (Tuesday). That can only mean one thing:

Jamal Crawford, you are about to be sixth man of the year.

This should be a nearly unanimous vote, Crawford ran away with this. (The fun part, as always, is to see what some media member who barely watches games voted for, ala the David Lee for defensive player of the year vote that made us all laugh and cringe.)

Crawford was a scoring machine off the bench for Atlanta, usually replacing Mike Bibby then changing the energy and flow of the game. He came in with a scorer’s mentality, blowing some games wide open (and shooting them out of a few, too). He was a gunner who stayed in at the end of games and won the Hawks a few in the fourth quarter. That helped break his 11-season playoff drought this year.

 Crawford had his best season so far — he scored 18 points per game, not his highest, but it was his best per-minute scoring average of his career (his minutes were down eight per game from last year). What mattered is his shooting got better, hitting a career best 44.9 percent overall, a career best 38 percent from three. Break out the advanced stats and he looks even better — a career best 57.3 true shooting percentage, a career best PER of 18.4. Pretty much if you look at an offensive measure, he had a career best year.

But Crawford is winning this because you don’t need advanced stats to see what Crawford did (many of the older voters are simple Cavemen Sportswriters, and they are frightened by your new technology and stats).

No surprise here, and deserved.

Josh Smith does his best Joakim Noah imitation

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The name Milwaukee comes from the Algonquian tribe word for “good land.” The Atlanta Hawks Josh Smith would like to disagree with that.

Taking the bait from reporters, the Hawks athletic power forward started a little war of words bound to sit poorly with Milwaukee residents, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“There’s pretty much nothing to do,” Smith said. “Miami has some really good restaurants. I never really did anything in Milwaukee. I would be happy to just find a restaurant. I’m not bashing the city but I’ve never actually did anything in Milwaukee so I really don’t know what is around there.”

Someone picked up on the Noah thread and asked Smith if he’d be taking any vacations in Milwaukee.

“Would you go there?” Smith asked. “Everybody knows there ain’t nothing to do in Milwaukee, man. Everybody knows that, (even) the people that live there.”

Well, at least he didn’t use the word “sucks.” (Which Noah did again Thursday, without provocation.)

Hawks management loves Milwaukee, not so much because it is Milwaukee as it is not Miami. There’s a feeling that the team got a little sidetracked in the first round last year because there are so many things to do, so much potential trouble to find in Miami. While you can find trouble in Milwaukee if you want, you have to look a little harder for it. Or for just a top-flight restaurant.

NBA Playoffs Matchup Mastery: The Bucks have to get wild

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Carlos Delfino cannot play the four.

Let’s just get that out there right away, so we’re all comfortable. The Bucks for reasons beyond belief tried to put Delfino on Josh Smith at the power forward spot and it was an outright disaster. Using Synergy Sports (which released their public version today), we can tell you that Smith went to the post six times on Delfino, and was able to get position each time. Smith only converted 2 of those six opportunities, but I can assure you, the ball touched the inside of the rim more on two of those attempts than the outside. Delfino is simply at too much of a disadvantage inside.

The Bucks’ offense wasn’t really the problem, it was defensively that they seemed to get hung at certain times. They can correct that issue by going with a bigger lineup. According to 82games.com, the best lineup for the Bucks without Andrew Bogut features Ridnour-Stackhouse-Salmons-Ilyasova-Thomas. The second best is the one that has the best chance against the Hawks tonight: Jennings-Salmons-Delfino-Ilyasova-Thomas. It’s this lineup that combats the Hawks’ strengths most effectively.

The Hawks might want to even go so far as putting Salmons at the three defensively and having Delfino play at the 2. In Game 1, Joe Johnson didn’t work in the areas that would give Delfino problems, and his length would probably make for a better matchup and help to keep Johnson off the offensive glass. Salmons would then be left to guard Marvin Williams, who isn’t a vital part of the Hawks’ offense and is unlikely to have the ball moved much through him.

Which leaves Ilyasova to counteract Smith. Smith is still the more athletic of the two, but Ilyasova’s instincts, rebounding and range could help to quarantine the damage a little bit. It’s all these little things the Bucks can do which might lead to them being able to even the series.

NBA Playoffs: Defending Brandon Jennings (it's not as hard as you think)

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NBA_jennings.jpgSaturday was the playoff debut of the Brandon Jennings show.

Sure, the Hawks won game one against the Bucks, pretty handily actually. But what you were talking about later, the only thing that kept Milwaukee even in it (and led them on a run to make it a little interesting) was Jennings. He had 34 points on 14 of 25 shooting. Jennings was draining threes and hitting his little lefty floaters in the lane. He kept getting good looks seeming whenever he wanted.

How do the Hawks contain the quick Rookie of the Year candidate?

Well, by doing a lot of the things they did last time, actually. Thanks to Synergy (the best new toy on the planet, seriously) I watched all of Jennings plays in the first game, and he was hitting the shots you want him to take.

Jennings does not have a great midrange game; according to Hoopdata he shot 29.9 percent from 10-15 feet, and 34 percent from 16 feet out to the three-point line (he shot a respectable 37 percent from three). But in the first half, those midrange shots were what was falling.

His early makes: 10-foot running left handed floater, 18-foot contested jumper, step-back three, uncontested layup in transition, step-back 18-footer over Al Horford, three pointer over Jeff Teague (who bit on a crossover). Those makes might bother you if Kobe Bryant were hitting them, but Jennings is not likely to repeat that feat.

Meanwhile, all game when he drove the lane and tried to get a layup in the halfcourt offense, he got it blocked. Josh Smith and Horford each got him a couple times. Take out the two transition layups and his only make came on a pretty scoop banker with just over a minute left in the game. The rest of the time they took away his easy shots. Jennings just hit the hard ones.

That happens in the NBA. But you play the percentages, the Hawks need to bet he can’t do that again. When it was clear he was hot they still doubled off him (to cover Carlos Delfino in the post?) a once and lost him at the arc a couple times, they could contest his shot better. But he’s not likely to be that hot again.

One thing the Hawks could do a better job of is forcing Jennings to drive to the right. Mike Bibby in particular let Jennings go to his much-preferred left any time he wanted (less Bibby on Jennings is just a good idea generally). He hits that left-handed floater consistently. Force him to do something he likes less to the right.

Also, be physical, as much as the refs allow. Joe Johnson could body him well and had some success with that in the last game.

Look for Jennings to have less of an impact this game, so long as the Hawks continue to take away his layups. And if he does, that could be trouble for the Bucks, they will need Salmons or someone to step up.

NBA Playoffs: The one where the Bucks are hoping for a playoff miracle against the Hawks

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Thumbnail image for johnson_game.jpgThree weeks ago, Atlanta and Boston were jockeying for the three seed not so much to avoid Cleveland in the second round (although that’s part of it) but to avoid Milwaukee in the first round. Nobody wanted a piece of the Bucks, they were on fire. Brandon Jennings was playing well at the point, John Salmons was suddenly an All-Star at the two, and Andrew Bogut was playing like a number one overall pick in the paint. They were good.

Then Bogut went down with a gruesome-to-watch elbow injury, was out for the playoffs, and here we are. The Bucks were not the same team. They did not strike fear into anyone. The Bucks did manage to go 4-2 in that stretch — because they still defend as all Scott Skiles teams do — but it wasn’t the same.

One of those two losses was to the Hawks, in a game where both teams brought it trying to win. The Hawks pretty much dominated that day; they outmanned the Bucks everywhere on the floor.

I fear that is what we will see here. A game where the Bucks team was outmanned by a Hawks team that has arrived, played out four times over.

Each year for the last few the Hawks have steadily gotten better, they have been climbing the ladder until now, where they are knocking on the contenders’ door. Josh Smith has finally blended his game perfectly with all those fantastic Atlanta athletes. This is the big test playoffs for them, can they enter the elite (before Joe Johnson gets a deal that is too long from some other team this summer as a free agent).

The test for the Hawks this playoffs is not in the first round. But they do still have to get through it.

There are a couple interesting matchups to watch. First, can the young Brandon Jennings (and Like Ridnour, who plays a lot of key minutes for the Bucks late at the point) expose Mike Bibby on defense? Bibby has aged and can’t hang with the quick guards, although he still contributes on offense by finding the holes and hitting the spot-up shots.

The problem is, when the going gets tough late the Hawks close with soon-to-be Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford running the point, and he can flat out ball.

If the Bucks are to have any chance in this series, John Salmons is going to have to dominate Joe Johnson. The Bucks just can’t have a shootout here, they have to take Johnson out of the flow. Which is hard because he shows flashes of being the dominant max player he gets paid like. If his shot is falling he is wicked, and Johnson can just take over games. Salmons is going to have to do it at both ends for there to be any chance.

Josh Smith is going to have a little trouble with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (I feel like you always need to use his middle name for some reason), because Mbah a Moute brings it on defense. He hustles. But he’s a scrapper and Smith is an amazing athlete who will still get his on the court. Smith is going to dominate this matchup as the series moves along and he gets used to the defense, and that will be a key for the Hawks.

Sort of the same situation at center — Kurt Thomas gets as much out of his body as is left, he still plays smart, but Al Horford is a physical beast that will dominate this matchup inside.

The Bucks will not quit, Scott Skiles teams never do. They will defend. Skiles will try some crazy lineups looking for a spark.

But in the end, talent wins out 99 percent of the time in the NBA. And the Hawks have a lot more talent, a lot better athletes around the floor. They are going to win this, if not in a sweep then in five. And the Hawks will be looking forward, because their real test is in the next round, which is when they can open the contenders’ door and walk right through.