– So which one of these teams is the experienced playoff group? Which one has a rookie running point? Which squad has guys who don’t seem to know it’s going to be more physical in the playoffs, especially on the road?
– “It is frustrating, man,” J.J. said. “It just seems like we don’t have the toughness. They were coming up with all the loose balls, and all the big rebounds. We couldn’t get stops when we needed to. It’s killing us.”
– The Hawks competed better in Game 4 than in Game 3 but it’s not like they could be much worse in that regard. They couldn’t overtake the Bucks because rookie Brandon Jennings had his way with them.
– Jennings has figured out the Hawks’ switching defense. If he wasn’t making jumpers, he was slithering to the rim to score. If he wasn’t doing that, he was dropping it off in the paint for teammates. And if that wasn’t there, the Bucks worked the ball around the perimeter, where Delfino inevitably was standing wide open to catch a pass for a 3.
– The Bucks worked over the Hawks. “Jennings has such quickness that when we get out on him he opens up stuff for his shooters,” Jamal said. “He gets around one person, he keeps his dribble, Delfino was getting shots Salmons was getting shots, Stackhouse was getting shots Ilyasova was getting shots. I think the penetration is hurting us a little bit.”
– More than a little bit. “It’s been tough because we switch a lot and they just get pretty much any penetration they wanted,” J.J. said. “They got us helter skelter, to where we are scrambling trying to find guys, and now we are at a disadvantage.”
– Is it time for the Hawks to adjust their defensive approach of switching all the time? “I don’t know,” Joe said. “I am sure we will come up with something. We have just got to get back playing with energy. They are getting layup after layup, you can’t have that in playoff basketball.”
– But this wasn’t about a lack of energy by the Hawks. They played hard, for the most part. It was about Jennings, Ridnour, Salmons and Delfino doing a much better job finding holes against the switches than they did in Games 1 and 2 and the Hawks sticking with the strategy.
– It’s not working. “I haven’t got my shot blocked as much,” Jennings said with a smile, referring to how he recklessly and ineffectively attacked the rim in Game 2. “I think just making smart decisions and learning as the series goes on and just moving the ball. We are a better team when everyone is moving the ball and touching the ball.”
– I didn’t get a chance to ask Woody if he’s considering adjusting the defensive strategy. If he doesn’t, I don’t see how Jennings, Ridnour, Salmons and Delfino don’t continue to take advantage.
– After it looked like Woody had the advantage in the first two games, Scott Skiles has taken it back. In this game, he went deep in his bench, got the Bucks sharing the ball and got something from everyone. “That’s pretty much our formula,” he said. “We need everybody to play as well that we can get. We’re not afraid to leave them out there during critical minutes.”
– The Bucks were better than the Hawks, and they were tougher, too. Yes the Bucks, especially Kurt Thomas , were getting away with holding, moving screens, and pushes. It took too long for the Hawks to respond in kind.
– “We know what to expect,” J.J. said. “We have got to stop complaining so much. We worry about them holding and scratching and clawing. We have just got to do the same thing. Stop worrying about what the refs are calling, and just play. We complain way too much.”
– The Hawks should have been mad about the way the Bucks got to the rim at will. Milwaukee shot 55 percent and scored 44 points in the paint, for crying out loud. In the playoffs. “We had too many breakdowns on the perimeter,” Smoove said. “Guys had to help and they knocked down jump shots. We had poor rotations and kept leaving Delfino at the 3-point line.”
– All of that is true but Josh isn’t blameless. I saw him watching guys score at the rim instead of challenging shots. He was back to being weak on closeouts. When J.J. was talking about guys complaining too much about calls, Smoove has to be at or near the top of the list.
– “We can’t let that get the best of us,” Jamal said. “A call is a call, it can’t be changed. You just have to go out there and compete.”
– Josh insisted he wasn’t frustrated about the physical play. “I was straight,” Smoove said. “People were not helping each other out and not communicating. That’s really why I was frustrated.”
– While the Bucks were getting easy shots, the Hawks were jacking up jumpers. They occasionally worked the inside-out game but there wasn’t much flow for long stretches of the game. “We are not being aggressive,” Joe said. “We are just sitting back on our heels. They are attacking, and we are just kind of sitting back watching.”
– The Hawks are 1-10 in postseason road games in the last three years. Haven’t these long, hard series gotten old? “I would have thought so a long time ago,” Joe said. “Obviously it hasn’t. I guess we just like going seven games. It kills us, man. We get banged up and we just get no rest.”
– The Magic swept Charlotte, by the way.
– The Hawks have won 15 straight at Philips but the Bucks have the confidence and momentum in the series. “I can’t wait until Friday to come back home and finish up the series, hopefully,” Jennings said. What does it mean for the Hawks that it sounds less like boasting, and more like a plan?
– “I still feel like there is no pressure on us,” Jennings said. “At the end of the day, everyone still expects us to lose the series. The best thing we can do is keep fighting and keep competing with them.”
– I’m out, Hawks fans.