– Well, what can you say about these first two games? The Hawks are just too good for the Bucks, who are competing but just don’t have the size, speed or offensive talent to keep up. Especially not at Philips, where they haven’t shown the ability to keep it together when the Hawks are defending, rebounding and running and the crowd is roaring.
– “They outplayed us in almost every spot up and down the floor,” Scott Skiles said. “We’ve got two or three days to get better.”
– The fans at Philip were hyped again. Say what you want about the Hawks’ troubles filling the arena with paying customers, but the people they do get in the building are doing their part.
– That’s 14 Ws in a row at Philips. “It’s the fans here,” Woody said. “The fans have been great the last three years. They really enjoy the product on the floor and how we play. They’ve been huge in the playoffs, like a sixth man.”
– It’s obvious the Hawks use that to fuel their big runs. I’ve maintained that the Hawks struggle to get up for games in front of sparse road crowds because they need a loud, packed house to generate energy. Woody dismissed my theory but I’m sticking with it.
– Al says the Hawks are ready to take it on the road for Game 3 on Saturday. “We’re on edge,” he said. “We can’t take anything lightly. I’m sure it’s going to be a tough environment. We’re fighting for our lives.”
– The Bucks once again can take solace that each time it looked like the Hawks finished them off, they showed some life. Then again, the Bucks also saw that when the Hawks decide they are going to play with passion for stretches the Bucks get left in their dust.
– That’s what happened when Milwaukee got within 80-72 in the fourth quarter. J.J. made a shot, he made another, Josh passed to Johnson in the corner for a 3-pointer, Al had a 3-point play, Smoove scored an alley-oop layup and Bibby made a jump shot.
– Just like that, it was 94-77 and the Bucks sagged. “We weren’t going to let them get over that hump,” Jamal said. “When a team like that can do that, it gives them life.”
– If you want to look ahead (because you can do that even if the Hawks can’t) you wonder if these offensive lulls will come back to bite the Hawks if they make it through this round and the competition stiffens. But the Hawks deserve credit for handling their business against an overmatched opponent. I don’t need to tell you that hasn’t always happened this season.
– Smoove was one assist short of a triple-double. He missed only two shots and on one of those he launched a jumper while trying to beat the shot clock. The thing I noticed is even when the Hawks made a bad play at one end he just sprinted back the other way instead of sulking.
– “I just have to give credit to my teammates for sticking with me,” he said. “They know whenever they pass the ball in the post and I get double-teamed, I’m going to make the right play. I was able to get it going early and sustain it throughout the ballgame.”
– J.J. was impressive, too. The Bucks couldn’t do anything to keep him out of the lane. He was noticeably spry off the dribble, shaking off Salmons a few times and slicing to the basket. J.J. was in control.
– J.J. also fared better checking Brandon Jennings. He can’t match the rookie’s quickness but he’s got six inches of height and about 70 pounds on him. He used those advantages and his vet savvy to make things difficult on Jennings.
– He got help from his teammates. The Hawks basically made Jennings a jump shooter and he wasn’t a very good one. “We wanted to give him different looks,” Jamal said. “Sometimes trap him, sometimes ‘half trap’ him, acting like we are going to trap.”
– Al was feeling it, too. It wasn’t just his efficient offense and his solid defense, it was the way his energy got the Hawks going. He’s a really smart player.
– The Bucks keep sending out bodies but they’ve got nothing for Josh and Al. At one point the Bucks put lumbering big man Primoz Brezec on Al, who easily got by him to draw a foul.
– Got to feel for Skiles. He’s got his team playing hard but he just can’t find a combination that works. You could see his frustration each time he slumped on the bench disgusted after J.J., Josh or Al got to the rim for scores. “They’re getting a lot of easy baskets,” he said. “if we keep handing out those easy baskets, it could be over quick.”
– The Bucks got more open looks in the second half, some of those on scrambles, but they didn’t look to have the legs to convert. That’s what happens when they spend most of the game chasing the Hawks into the lane and in transition.
– Teague looked lost during one sequence in the first quarter. Ilyasova shook free for a 3-pointer when Teague was slow on a rotation, then Teague didn’t seem to know the Hawks’ play and had to be shooed off by Jamal, and then he overdribbled and clanked a shot. That got Bibby back off the bench.
– The Hawks’ reserves didn’t contribute much. Jamal shot just 2 for 10 and then drew Woody’s ire by becoming gun shy. Zaza seemed out of sorts. Mo took just one shot. The Bucks’ bench players had 40 points to seven for the Hawks.
– Zaza and Woody had a blowup when Woody took him out of the game after Salmons kept going around him for layups. Zaza didn’t want to talk about it. “We won the game, that’s what’s important,” he said.
– Did you see Bibby crossover Ridnour and draw a foul? Then he threw a nice lob to Al for an alley-oop layup. Bibby was just 2 for 8 from the floor but found a way to contribute with seven assists and six free throw makes in six attempts.
– The Hawks are taking the day off on Wednesday. They will meet up on Thursday for practice and plan to leave for Milwaukee on Friday.
– I’m out, Hawks fans