Earlier in the day, the people spoke out about who they wanted to see in the first round of the playoffs, choosing the Milwaukee Bucks big time. Monday night, the Hawks showed their strength over the Milwaukee Bucks by beating the pesky hosts 104-96.
The Hawks were without THHB endorsed 6th Man of the Year Jamal Crawford, who was recovering from a toe injury suffered when some wizard (or Wizard as this case may be) stepped on it, so the ATL turned to the other scoring guard, Joe Johnson, who obliged by hitting 12 of his 19 shots, grabbing (7) rebounds, and scoring a game high (31) points.
The Bucks gave the Hawks fits throughout, but playing without Andrew Bogut, who is out for the year, the Bucks were overwhelmed inside and the Hawks took advantage, outrebounding MIL 48-34.
With the Miami Heat winning a close one in PHL, Miami takes a one game lead over the Bucks for the fifth seed. As the Hawks maintain control over the third seed, that means what you saw here might just be what we see this weekend come playoff time.
Why not give the people what they want, eh?
More after the jump:
Game Over When: Al Horford overcame his early foul trouble and general frustration (he actually picked up a technical in this game) by scoring (5) key points in a (30) second span, giving the Hawks a (7) point lead with (3) minutes left. After the Hawks got past a 12-20 start at the charity stripe to make their last (7) free throws down the stretch, the Hawks had the win without all the dramatics of past photo finishes.
Worth Noting: Zaza Pachulia led the Hawks with (4) assists. Draw your own conclusions.
Also...: Josh Smith led the Hawks in an old fashioned block(ed shot) party, with (6) of his own contributing to an 11-1 edge in that category.
We saw it:
Horford was boss tonight, despite some sketchy foul calling in Brew City tonight. Horford got his 13 and 12 in a mere 25 minutes--including those clutch plays down the stretch. The overall craptastic officiating may have just been the spark that kept the Hawks fire burning tonight. Can see where some good teams whine a lot to keep the fire burning. Al played pissed off in the second half. Heck, he played that way in the first quarter, too, when all your rebounds belonged to him.
Marvin Williams got to the rack and the line, getting (18) points. It would have been nice if he could have contributed more than (2) rebounds in his (36) minutes---and the second one came with (10) seconds left---but hey, we'll take the points tonight with Crawford out. Al wasn't giving up his boards anyway.
Zaza filled in more than admirably for Horford in his foul trouble, getting (10) points and (7) rebounds in (22) minutes. He also had those (4) assists that led the team, including a pair of nice passes: one to a wide open Mo Evans in the first half for a jam and the other to Josh Smith for a dunk as well.
Mike Bibby is Mr. 1st Quarter. (13) points in the opening frame, making his wide open shots. Afterwards? (Buzz). Nada.
The Bucks don't make it easy, only turning the ball over (4) times despite playing a rookie point guard, Brandon Jennings. Of course, the Hawks played their rookie point guard, too. Jeff Teague played (14) minutes of up and down basketball. Teague could get to the cup against anyone MIL had to check him, but it only translated to a 1-3 night with a pair of assists.
For the second straight night, Teague caught our eye, but this time it was for a pair of sweet dimes he laid on Mo Evans and Josh Smith, respectively. The Evans pass came on penetration and, as the defense converged on the rookie, he tossed a no-look under the hoop to Mo who converted easily. The other was also on lane entry--this time Teague lobbed a pass to Smoove who casually tipped it in, giving the Hawks a (10) point lead in the fourth quarter. Good job, rook.
We can't believe we saw it:
Late in the first quarter, Josh Smith left the game with an injury. Steve Holman called it a pulled groin, but replays clearly showed that Mike Bibby, while under the hoop after a shot attempt, kneed Josh in the so-called "private area". Smith would return to the game when the obvious pain subsided. We hear ya, Smoove. Take your time.
We almost had this space reserved for Mario West, who almost entered a game with .4 seconds left in the half. To be placed in the game for defensive purposes with .4 seconds left would have been classic. Sadly, West was called back to the bench before this history was made. Se la.