The Atlanta Hawks bounced back Monday night with a 95-80 road victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Hawks secured their 20th win of the season and snapped a five game road losing streak in the process. When examining this game closer it is easy to discount this victory as the Bucks were missing some key players from their rotation. Even the Hawks defensive effort is discounted when you consider that the Bucks are the NBA's least efficient offensive squad. However, when you consider how the Hawks played the night before in New Orleans then you understand the importance of bouncing back and of snapping that road losing streak.
In recapping this game I thought that Jason did an excellent job describing the differences in the win in Milwaukee and the loss in New Orleans. In short Atlanta put the ball in the basket with much more regularity in Milwaukee. They also were able to control the glass which was a less publicized reason for their demise in The Big Easy. Of course Milwaukee doesn't have Chris Paul either. Still despite being just 12-17 on the season, this is a Milwaukee club that has went on the road and defeated teams such as the Mavericks and the Lakers in the last few weeks. Not to mention that early November beat down they gave the Hawks at Philips Arena.
When looking back through this game I feel there are a few things to point out and discuss. I think this quote by Michael Cunningham in his post game blog post sums up quite a few things that I am confused about.
DNP-CD for Josh Powell and Damien Wilkins. L.D.’s rotation has yet to settle.
Now it is not Powell or Wilkins playing time that I am most confused about but I think Cunningham makes a subtle point here. This is the healthiest this team has been the entire season and I don't think the rotations have settled as of yet. However, I don't want to be the guy that is preaching patience at this point in the season either. As even I can't fathom the thinking behind a DNP-CD for Jeff Teague in New Orleans while giving him back up minutes and then some the next night in Milwaukee. If Teague was a better match-up with quick guards like Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins then wouldn't it be safe to say that he is probably a better option against Chris Paul?
To be completely fair the thinking in New Orleans probably had to do more with wanting shot makers on the floor. It was apparent in that second half that the Hawks were intent on jacking jump shot after jump shot and that isn't Teague's strength. It also appeared that the plan in New Orleans was to have a bigger player matched up on Paul as Joe Johnson drew the assignment most of the night. I would offer that Teague's eighteen minutes on Monday had a profound effect on the Hawks defensively. Probably as much as limiting Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby to 23 minutes apiece. It is also fair to point out that second guessing ones self is part of the coaching profession even if it is less publicized and rarely admitted to.
Lets now talk about the merits of starting the bigger lineup with Jason Collins at the center position. I previously talked about the balance that starting the big lineup brings to the Hawks. With Marvin Williams shifting to the bench, Atlanta can now bring two players off the bench that are capable of scoring. With Jason Collins willing to do some of the dirty work defensively and tonight on the boards it has freed up Al Horford to focus more offensively without having to bang with centers such as Milwaukee's Andrew Bogut. Whether Marvin Williams likes coming off the bench or not, he has shown a more consistent aggressiveness when not starting as it seems he gets lost as the fourth or fifth option when on the floor with the regulars. Tonight the Hawks bench rolled up 42 points off the bench with both Williams and Jamal Crawford on the court at crunch time. I feel it is less important who starts rather than who finishes. As big a fan of the big lineup as I am becoming I was surprised to read that the Hawks are only 5-5 when starting Jason Collins as it just feels like they play better with that combination.
In summary Atlanta did what they had to do tonight to get a victory. It wasn't beautiful basketball for 48 minutes, but it was adequate enough to stop a losing streak. When the offense bogged down in the second half, they were able to pick it up defensively while securing rebounds which was essentially what they were unable to do the night before. At 20-13 they now head home for a brief stop and match-up with the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday before heading back out on the road to Oklahoma City.