Milwaukee– I told Smoove I thought this was the Hawks’ best road effort since they won at Utah way back on Feb. 22. He thought about it for a few seconds before agreeing. “Probably so, all-around. We pretty much led the whole game. Even though they went on a run in the second half, we didn’t bend. We kept fighting. We kept with our game plan and used our advantages.”
– And, what do you know, one of those advantages was stout defense. The Hawks were active and energetic from the jump. I don’t recall seeing many lulls. The Bucks stayed in it by making tough shots and scoring off some loose ball scrambles. They didn’t stay in it because of lax rotations, half-hearted closeouts or any of the other lapses we’ve seen from the Hawks lately.
– “Everything was solid from beginning to end,” Woody said. “We are going to need that the rest of the way. We’ll face Cleveland on Wednesday and then we’ve got to get ready for the playoffs.”
– It’s hard to find anything the Hawks did poorly. The 12 turnovers, I suppose, but look at some of the other numbers: 53 percent shooting, 52 points in the paint, six players in double figures scoring, 19 of 27 from the line, 48-34 advantage on the boards, 11 blocked shots, 39 percent shooting by the Bucks . . . you get the idea.
– The added bonus for the Hawks is everything that happened in this game sends a message to the Bucks, who pretty much gave the Hawks their best Bogut-less shot and couldn’t get a lead after the first quarter.
– “I think the focus was a little different tonight considering that it’s a potential matchup in the playoffs,” J.J. said. “Knowing we had this game and one more left, we wanted to go out with a bang and go into the postseason with some momentum.”
– J.J. was excellent. It’s not just that he scored 31 points, it’s that he hung back in the fourth and let others do their thing. He took just three shots in the fourth, only one of them in Iso. The hand doesn’t appear to be an issue so far. “He was solid tonight,” Woody said. “He shot it well and was probing the defense. He did a good job of knowing when he needed to make plays.”
– And how about Zaza? Al gets into foul trouble and the Hawks don’t skip a beat because Zaza scored, he rebounded, he kicked out for open jumpers, he was tough around the basket. “Zaza did a great job coming in,” Al said. “He came in and did what needed to be done.”
– With Crawford out Woody told Rook’ before the game he needed something from him. He got it. “He can stay in front of Jennings and Ridnour and all of those guards,” Al said. “That works to our advantage.”
– “Rook controlled the game for a little bit,” Woody said. “He made a few mistakes but a lot of that was guys not being ready for him delivering the ball”
– Mo was solid as well. Bibby (seven rebounds!) was good. Al had a double-double despite playing just 25 minutes. Marvin was aggressive. See a trend here? “Everybody who played tonight contributed to the win,” Woody said.
– Smoove had six blocks. The Bucks’ guards thought they could go at him when he switched off to them. They were wrong. “They had their bigs switching on onto our smalls and taking advantage of that was difficult for us,” Scott Skiles said.
– The Hawks led from 4:20 in the first quarter. When the Bucks made their inevitable run to cut a 12-point lead to 89-87 the Hawks scored on five of their next six possessions.
– Look how many high-percentage shots the Hawks got during that stretch, too: Marvin slashed through the lane for a basket, Al converted a 3-point play, Al made an open jump shot, Marvin scored on a layup and J.J. made two free throws.
– That was game over. “We executed down the stretch,” Woody said. “It was a hard-fought victory for our team. (The Bucks) are playing for something as well.”
– The Hawks showed how they were in control in the first quarter. Al worked on Kurt Thomas in the post, and J.J. got to the basket. Once the Bucks focused on those two, Bibby shook free for open jump shots and made three straight 3-pointers.
– The Hawks moved 1 ½ games ahead of idle Boston. The Hawks would clinch the third seed if the Celtics lose at Chicago on Tuesday. If Boston wins, the Hawks would need to beat Cleveland at Philips Arena on Wednesday (edit: unless the Celtics also lose to Milwaukee in their finale) to finish ahead of the Celtics.
– “I don’t know if LeBron is going to play or not but it don’t matter,” Woody said. “We’ve been good at home this year and we need a win.”
– I’m out, Hawks fans.