Well, it turns out the Hawks haven’t clinched a spot in the playoffs after all. Elias Sports Bureau called the league to tell them that the Hawks would lose a tiebreaker if they lost all of their remaining games and finished in four-way tie for the final playoffs spot. Well, OK, then. The Hawks will clinch tonight if they win or Chicago loses to Houston. Really.
(-) Tie breaker not needed (better overall winning percentage)
(1) Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division
(2) Head-to-head won-lost percentage
(3) Division won-lost percentage
(4) Conference won-lost percentage
(5) W-L Percentage vs. Playoff teams, own conference
(6) W-L Percentage vs. Playoff teams, other conference
(7) Net Points, all games
The Bucks loom as a potential playoff opponent. Normally the Hawks might not have too much concern about a team that hasn’t been anywhere near them in the standings and can’t match their talent. But these are not normal circumstances. The Bucks are just 38-30 but they are 14-3 since the All-Star break. More to the point, they are 14-2 since adding John Salmons in a trade.
You might remember how Salmons lit up the Hawks for 32 points during Milwaukee’s overtime loss at Philips Arena and did a respectable job checking J.J. until he got Iso-Joed at the end. What you may not remember is how Salmons joined the Bulls in a trade last season along with Brad Miller and helped catapult them to the playoffs. Now my man Charlie G at the Journal Sentinel notes Salmons is having a similar effect on the Bucks since the Bulls unloaded him to clear space for the summer free agent bonanza.
“When we were talking about making a move, we looked at him, and still do, as just a good, all-around pro guard,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “He can post up a little bit. He shoots the ball well enough. He can put it on the floor and get to the rim. He can dish it if necessary. He’s a solid defender. He’s a professional and has a real calm demeanor out there, and that has helped our guys.”
Since the Bucks and Hawks strangely didn’t meet for the first time until the late date of Feb. 28, the Hawks can measure themselves against the new-look Bucks and not the team that was sputtering along at 24-28 before Salmons arrived. Looking at the game-by-game efficiency numbers, the Bucks seem to be a better team offensively with Salmons –they’ve topped 100 points in offensive efficiency in 13 of 16 of games with him after doing so in just 31 of 68 previously. Their rugged defense also hasn’t appeared to skip a beat on defense–they’ve held 11 of 16 opponents below 100 points in defensive efficiency with Salmons after doing so in 21 of 68 games before his arrival.
It should be noted that the Salmons Bucks didn’t go a good job stopping the Hawks in their first meeting and have had similar problems with the better offensive teams. But the Bucks also have more offensive punch with Salmons. This is all along way of saying the Bucks would be a dangerous opponent for the Hawks to face in the playoffs.
That’s assuming the Hawks really, truly clinch a postseason berth at some point.