Before we get too far into this recap I want to make sure that I credit the Bucks. As you read on you are going to get the feeling that Atlanta lost this game more than Milwaukee won it. While that might have been true, the Bucks take on the persona of their coach and for at least one night, they came up with a gritty effort and pulled out a win. They are not my favorite team by any means but they are a team that despite its record does command an opponent's respect and full attention. Atlanta didn't give them that tonight and in the end it proved costly.
I feel like I can summarize this entire game by describing one sequence. Before I do, I want to lead with a post game quote from Larry Drew.
"It was not a good display of shot selection, which we talk about over and over, especially on the road. We settled."
With 27 seconds left and the Hawks down 94-90 Atlanta came out of a time out and gave the ball to Al Horford who drove the lane and then kicked out to Josh Smith for a three point attempt which missed and pretty much ended the game for the Hawks if it actually wasn't over before that. I don't know what was talked about in the huddle but I'd be willing to bet that Josh Smith and three pointer weren't talked about. There was still time on the clock to get a quick two and foul but the sequence was pretty much a good summary of this entire game. No I don't think for a second that coach Drew wanted Smith taking that shot especially when you watch and see that Smith made an effort to float back out to the three point line. If I have a fault with coach Drew on this night it was for even having Smith in the game with the way he had played the entire night.
The worst part about Josh Smith's 6-20 from the field 1-5 from three point range night was that the above shot that I described probably wasn't the worst shot he took in the fourth quarter. Josh started complaining early and it clearly affected his game. He failed to close out defensively throughout the first quarter that allowed Corey Maggette to get off to a good start. Then to complicate things further, he refused to take advantage of that match-up by taking Maggette inside on the offensive end choosing to launch jump shot after jump shot. His final line of 14 points and 11 rebounds doesn't look terrible but go deeper and you will see four turnovers and a big goose egg in the assists column. Sure he had three blocked shots but he was absolutely dreadful in closing out to shooters repeatedly going under screens whether it was against Maggette or D-League call up Garrett Temple.
No it is not all of Josh Smith's fault that the Hawks are jump shot happy, but when you consider that he took seven more shots than any other Hawk and took one less three point shot that Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby combined you can see that there was indeed a problem here. I have heard this coaching staff talk about taking advantage of mis-matches numerous times and tonight for whatever reason it didn't translate onto the floor. If I fault the coaching staff for anything tonight it is for leaving players on the floor that clearly had no intention of carrying out the game plan. One faulty part can bring the whole machine down, and in my opinion that is exactly what happened last night on both ends of the court.
Now back to the above Larry Drew statement. The last two words "We Settled" doesn't just apply to Josh Smith. That is the entire team and it seems that more and more each game the Hawks offense moves further away from the basket. That is fine when the shots are going in but it is not a recipe for success long term. It wasn't like there weren't opportunities to go in the post. Smith was matched on Maggette and Erson Ilyasova for a lot of the night. Al Horford drew Ilyasova a few times and I will take that match-up any day. Joe Johnson had Chris Douglas-Roberts and Carlos Delfino shielding him much of the night. Whether or not you get the shot in the paint, putting the ball in the post opens up everything else and that is not a step that is optional for a successful team. One of the advantages of starting the big lineup is that it forces the other team to match-up to Smith and Horford. That doesn't do a lot of good if Atlanta doesn't attempt to exploit those match-ups.
This is a tough loss to swallow for the simple fact that the victory was right there to be had. The Hawks just needed to finish the job and they didn't. They checked out early. All of my ranting has been confined to the offensive end. Defensively Atlanta couldn't stay in front of Earl Boykins for much of the fourth quarter and he dissected the Hawks defense by either scoring or kicking out to wide open shooters. All of that happened but I can't help but think that with just a little more poise and execution on the offensive end, none of that on the defensive end would have even mattered in this game.
If there was anything good that came out of this game it was that Horford and Marvin Williams returned to action from injury. Horford logged a double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds while also recording five assists. I thought he passed up a couple of shots but maybe that is just because I would have liked to have seen him get more opportunities. Marvin scored seven points in 13 minutes and appears that he might be brought along slowly. Zaza Pachulia didn't score but recorded eight rebounds and I thought did a pretty good job defensively in the paint where he mixed it up. Jeff Teague got some burn finding himself matched up on Boykins for stretches in both halves. He finished with two points and four assists and zero turnovers. After returning from a one game suspension, Josh Powell spent this game in a suit as he was inactive. Read whatever you want into that.