Fast Breaks: Hawks-Bucks, Game 2
The Bucks are having trouble scoring inside and outside vs. the Hawks
Brandon Jennings got down on himself during a poor Game 2 performance
Josh Smith is dominating at both ends and is the series' best player
With their 96-86 victory over the Bucks on Tuesday, the Hawks are firmly in control of their first-round series, which has turned out to be perhaps the most lopsided mismatch of the playoffs. For as poorly as the Hawks played in the second half of Game 1, they played that well throughout Game 2, sending some serious doubts through the Bucks for a number of reasons.
The Bucks simply have a bad combination. Milwaukee shot just 43.6 percent from the field during the regular season, which ranked next-to-last in the league, behind only New Jersey. Essentially, they struggle to shoot from the outside. But when they attempt to get to the rim, Josh Smith and the rest of Atlanta's frontcourt are waiting to swat away any shots. After 11 blocks in Game 1, the Hawks came up with another eight rejections in Game 2, which then forced the Bucks back to the outside, where poor shot after poor shot sent the game into a tailspin.
Brandon Jennings was terrible. For as impressive as the rookie was in Game 1, when he scored 34 points, Jennings struggled from the very start in Game 2 -- and things only got worse. Jennings was 3-for-15 from the field and ended up playing only 27 minutes after Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles got tired of seeing Jennings fire up clanks -- including one badly off-the-mark air ball. Compounding problems is that Jennings visibly got down on himself. Rather than adopting a next-shot-is-going-in mentality, Jennings obviously lost confidence in his jumper. Then he started making poor decisions, like the matador defense he played on Marvin Williams' fast break that turned into a conventional three-point play.
Josh Smith is the most dominant player in this series. As solid as Joe Johnson is, Smith has been imposing on both ends of the floor. He nearly had a triple-double in Game 2 with 21 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks. It's not just that the runner-up to Dwight Howard for defensive player of the year is freakishly athletic, it's that he runs the floor so well that it's difficult for defenders to keep up, the reason Smith had five dunks among his nine field goals. There is nobody on the Bucks' roster who can guard him.
The Bucks are getting zero from anybody other than John Salmons and Jennings. Unlike Atlanta, which got a big game from Mike Bibby in Game 1 and a double-double from Al Horford in Game 2, the Bucks have gotten very little from anybody other than John Salmons. Kurt Thomas and Jerry Stackhouse are too old. Luke Ridnour and Carlos Delfino are too slow. Ersan Ilyasova is not athletic enough. Luc Mbah a Moute and Dan Gadzuric are not given the opportunity. That puts too much pressure on Jennings and Salmons, and they are too small to effectively combat the Hawks' size.
The Hawks did not let up. Yes, they lost some intensity in the second half, when the Bucks cut the lead to eight. But this was not the same thing as Game 1, when Milwaukee made a legitimate run that scared Atlanta. This game was never in doubt -- and was not really as close as the final score indicated. Milwaukee came out playing much more solidly than in Game 1, but once the Hawks stretched the lead to double-digits, it was clear which team was better. The Hawks have controlled this series from the very start. Now, the best thing for Atlanta to do is finish this thing off in four games. That will give them the opportunity to rest up for the second round.
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