Perspective is important when thinking about the playoffs. It would be easy, as a result of Atlanta's relatively easy 95-74 send-off of the Milwaukee Bucks, to wonder why the team didn't sweep, didn't this, and/or didn't that.
But winning a Game Seven doesn't need all that scrutiny---yet. Survival is what is essential in the postseason, and the Hawks will indeed move on to face Orlando on Tuesday. What needs to be talked about was the way in which the Hawks finally won their fourth game of the series and eliminated a hustling, advantageous, hard-working bunch from Milwaukee. Or, in the case of this game, the many ways.
The usual categories after the jump:
Game Over When:
The Hawks have taken good leads into the fourth quarter all throughout this season and lost them--even in this series. So when the team took a (13) point lead into the final quarter, you had to wonder if the Hawks would be able to hold off the hustling Bucks.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hit the And-1 portion of a three point play with (10) minutes left to cut the lead to (12). After Joe Johnson answered with a bucket of his own, the Bucks charged back towards the hoop. Brandon Jennings got past his perimeter defender and was hauling to the basket. From nowhere, Josh Smith emerged to spike the ball off the glass, triggering a fast break. Jamal Crawford got the outlet pass and headed towards the hoop, with only Luke Ridnourbetween he and the hoop. Crawford drew Ridnour to him and looked as if to shoot, faking a pass to Johnson, who had filled the other side of the lane. But just as you thought Crawford might take on the defender, he dropped it off to Johnson, who finished easily for the hoop, forcing a timeout from Bucks coach Scott Skiles and putting the lead out to (16), never to be threatened again.
There was the obvious: The Hawks once again held the Bucks to 32 percent shooting from the field.
With the lack of natural defenders cascading across the Atlanta roster, it takes a total team effort to accomplish the Hawks goals of keeping the Bucks from exposing the Hawks going to the hoop. In Game Seven, they found exactly that---teammates helping each other in a trusting way, not the "he's your issue" way they had in their three losses. The Hawks big men routinely affected shots on the inside and Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, and company were pushed to the outside, where they struggled to make tough shots.
How many times did you see a Buck hoisting an airball on the afternoon? My guess is way too many for Milwaukee fans to stomach. Tough way to end a season watching Luke Ridnour find nothing but the baseline on two occasions from long range. As The Namesake would say, "Someone keeps opening a door on this young man!"
There was the glass: The Hawks dedicated themselves to boxing out and aggressively grabbing the misses that their good defense created. Atlanta outrebounded their guests by a total of 55-34 and secured all but (12) of the Bucks (58) misses. Al Horford led the way---he had (14) of those defensive boards and (15) for the game.
We Saw It:
Among the (3) Hawks who contributed (6) rebounds were Joe Johnson, Zaza Pachulia----and Mike Bibby?
Bibby was the unsung hero of the game, not only hitting his requisite open shots, (6-12, 15 points), but being very aggressive on the glass, getting those six and tipping a few others. Mike moved his feet, drove the baseline, and basically showed he was all the bit the savvy veteran playing a Game Seven.
Marvin Williams and Pachulia combined for (9) offensive rebounds which was a good way to contribute since other parts of their game were broken Sunday.
Marvin continues to struggle offensively and has given way to completely selling his body out for contact, hoping for a foul call. Often this leads to truly awful shots, because he has given up the primary goal of making the shot and tossed all his eggs in the referee's basket--and the result was another 2-7 afternoon from the field.
Zaza did what he does well, namely, getting inside for offensive boards and being physical inside. Unfortunately, Zaza was giving as good as he was taking in Game Seven on the defensive end. Zaza was slow in his rotations and picking up his man. Twice this manifested itself in not getting out faster on Kurt Thomas, who made two shots courtesy of the open looks Zaza provided by not picking him up. Then Brandon Jennings penetrated and found a tardy Pachulia leaving the basket open--twice.
Horford was indeed Boss this afternoon, going outside and inside on his way to a 6-8, 16 point effort in Game Seven. There was a beautiful ball fake and run to the hoop early on, finishing with what the blokes in the pub call "authority". He also defended well the whole game, not just freezing the Bucks on the offensive glass with his (14) defensive rebounds, but also making life generally difficult for anyone who dared approach with the ball.
Life is much, much better when Jamal Crawford knocks down shots, which he did on an 8-16 effort today. Also, he led the team with (6) assists. His ability to get into the lane helped his teammates as well as himself.
We know that Jamal and Joe can hit some tough shots throughout a game, but it had been quite a while since we had seen Bibby make the type of tough, contested muscle shot he made in the third quarter. Bibby found himself with the ball above the arc and the shot clock winding down. Bibby went around a Horford pick and found Kurt Thomas standing back as if Bibby would drive. Mike had no such time and was barely able to force a jump shot coming around that screen. It went in for Mike's last two points of the day.
We can't believe we saw it:
With the Hawks stuck on (67) points and Marvin Williams missing a put back dunk, Mbah a Moute got the ball quickly up the court to Jennings, who went at Bibby to try and score on the break. Suddenly, none other than Joe Johnson rose up swatted Jennings' effort into the seats, nearly causing a riot in the Highlight Factory.