In this season of sinces, let us add one more: The Atlanta Hawks have gone up 2-0 in a (7) game series for the first time since 1970, courtesy of a business-like 96-86 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the ATL.
The Highlight Factory lived up to its name in a huge way Tuesday night, as the Hawks blocked, ran, and dunked their way to (22) fast break points and one-two-three Hawks scored (20) points or better, led by the shooting of Mr. Joe Johnson (27 on 12-23 from the field).
Al Horford was about as quiet as one can be when dropping a 20-10 in a playoff game, doing his damage inside and out offensively, and swatting shots defensively. More on one of those later.
But the real stud was Josh Smith, a player with which the Bucks can't control. Smoove was everything for the Hawks tonight: A deterrent inside, a thief in the passing lanes, a bear on the glass, and a facilitator all over the floor. Smoove finished one assist shy of triple-double, turning in a magnificent 21/14/9 game, making 9-11 from the floor and dropping all three of his free throws.
Deal with that, Deer.
More after the jump:
Game Over When: There was still of hint of optimism in the air for MIL when Jerry Stackhouse made an open three with over five minutes left in the game to bring the game back down to (10) points. But then Mike Bibby executed a perfect pick and/or roll pass to Horford who danced down the lane and brought the house down with a two-handed rim rocker, picking up a foul in the process. When he came back down the floor after making the free throw and promptly tossed John Salmons' jumper into the seats, the message had been sent---game over.
Worth Noting: The Hawks won despite getting beat to rebounds on the defensive end, allowing (18) offensive rebounds and (29) second chance points, led by a first half double-double by Erson Ilyasova. They did this because the Bucks were only (41) percent from the field despite all the second chance hoops. The Hawks were energetic defensively on rotation and switches and got after their guests, holding them to an awful 4-24 from three point range.
Also: Specific to the Hawks pressure were the statistics of Game One sensation Brandon Jennings who found the going considerably rougher, shooting 3-15 with (2) assists and having his shot blocked (4) times.
We Saw It:
The Hawks bench was.....uh, stinky. They were as bad as the Bucks starters were, and therefore got outpaced 40-7 by their reserve counterparts as a result. Zaza Pachilia, Maurice Evans, and Jamal Crawford simply didn't have the same vibe the starters did, and to Mike Woodson's credit, he didn't wait long for them to find it. They'll be better in Game Three.
We were surprised to see the Hawks continue to try and pound Horford against Kurt Thomas and Johnson against Mbah a Moute. Didn't they watch Hoopinion's class film on the matter? In fact, we didn't even see much of Smith posting up Delfino as we did in the first game, successful as it was---and the Hawks still had enough to win easily. They also didn't go into Horford with an overmatched Primoz Brezac (5 1/2 minutes on the floor) on him more than the one time Horford made him look silly and got to the line. Just sayin'.
For a night, Dan Gadzuric made Bucks fans (somewhat) proud. Dan was part of the terrific bench effort for the Bucks and got the better of his former teammate Pachulia by providing (18) solid minutes off the pine (6 points, 6 boards, 1 block) while Woodson seemed like he couldn't wait to get Zaza off the floor. Savor the flavor, Gadzuric--Zaza will be back.
Smoove got to (9) assists with just under (6) minutes to play, but couldn't get that last dime to make Hawk history, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Twice within a minute, with three minutes left to go, Smith called for the ball in the post with the intent to dish. First came Marvin Williams, who cut to the middle and just missed his runner in the lane. Then, Smith got the ball to Bibby for a bomb that just rimmed out. Bibby seemed to shoot from where he caught it (which was a step or two behind the arc, as if he knew he didn't want to blow the assist by doing too much with the ball to get a closer shot. Moments later, the bench would enter the game and Smith's chance at officially messing around were closed for the night.
We can't believe we saw it:
Josh Smith took a pass from a penetrating Jamal Crawford and headed down the baseline with a single thought in mind. Dominance. Smith threw the slam down and drew the foul. Upon completing the bonus, the Hawks led 76-57 with 1:28 left in the third quarter. But it wasn't the slam we couldn't believe. I mean come on, it's J-Smoove, right?
The Hawks then went cold for almost (4) minutes after that, letting the Bucks get the lead back down to (10). It also wasn't the dissolved lead that bewildered, it was the shots that simply would not go in for the Birds that confounded.
At the end of the third quarter, the Hawks ran the ball down the floor, leaving Smoove with an easy finish---which he missed. Fortunately, Horford grabbed the rebound and had an easy follow--which he missed. Then as the fourth quarter began, Crawford also missed a layup after Johnson had his shot blocked by Salmons. Give us a break. It wasn't as if the Hawks were frittering away anything---these were great shots that just weren't going down.
Finally, Johnson was fouled by Luke Ridnour and went to the line to get the Hawks off of that lousy (76). He missed the first free throw before putting the slump to rest and hitting the second free throw and the Hawks never looked back.