– If you are still mad this series went seven games, can you at least be happy the Hawks closed it out today with no drama?
– Of course about 30 seconds after they clinched everyone wanted to ask them about Orlando. “I am ready to go lay down,” Bibby said. “I don’t even want to think about that. I am not even going to worry about basketball right now.”
– I kinda know how he feels. Looking forward to some Breaking Bad tonight. Get on that show.
– The Magic may have the Hawks’ number. They have Dwight Howard and a bunch of shooters. They have home court advantage. They have a longer history of playing good defense and an even more efficient offense than the Hawks. They were in the Finals last year. They’ve been sitting around waiting for what seems like forever.
– So naturally pretty much everyone will assume all of that means the Hawks won’t have a chance. “That’s how it goes,” Bibby said. “Somebody has to be the underdog. Why not?”
– That comes later. First, the acknowledgment that the Hawks pulled out a hard-fought series. (Warning, warning, lame boxing analogy to follow) Regardless if the Bucks should have been going toe-to-toe with them in the first place, the Hawks were left standing.
– “Guys played their hearts out on Friday and we did the same today,” Smoove said. “We’ve got to have that every game.”
– The Hawks ended up playing some defense in this series. In Games 1-4, the Bucks shot 48 percent, averaged 99 points and led the rebounding tally 159-154. In Games 5-7 the Bucks shot 35 percent, averaged 78 points and trailed 145-115 in rebounding.
– Sure, the Bucks aren’t a very good offensive team even when they have Bogut (though Salmons had made them better) but the Hawks hadn’t been a very good defensive team.
– They were over the final three games of this series. “I know that’s what wins basketball games,” Woody said. “As we move forward, it has got to stay consistent as far as how we defend and rebound. The only way we got out of this series is defend. We did that in Milwaukee, holding them to 69 points and tonight 74 points. It was our defense that came through for us in this series.”
– There will be lots of talk about whether the Hawks take their chances by focusing their defense on Dwight or let him get his and control all those shooters. But it may not be as simple as an either-or proposition, particularly within the flow of each game.
– When Bibby was asked about how Al can handle Dwight, he offered some vet perspective: “I judge teams by how good their team defense is. I remember playing San Antonio and Portland when I was younger and I was just baffled about how they were helping each other and rotating. How tough they made it for everybody to score. I look at it like it’s a team effort.”
– “I think we’ve figured out if we play hard defensively we always give ourselves a chance to win games and we just have to come out and match [Orlando's] intensity,” Al said.
– That kind of sums up the Hawks, doesn’t it? They’ve talked about being a good defensive team for so long and only now seem to have discovered that it actually does make a difference when they back it up. It’s how they beat the Bucks fairly handily in Game 6 and 7 despite some long scoring droughts.
– Al was a beast against the Bucks: 15.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 56 percent shooting. He had 25 and 11 in Game 5 (overlooked for obvious reasons), 15 and 15 in Game 6 and 16 and 16 in Game 7.
– About the only thing you can pick at Al were the few times he insisted on trying to bull Kurt Thomas to the basket instead of shooting in face-ups and pick-and-ops. But he offered an explanation for that before Game 7: “It’s all about what our guards want us to tun. I can do both. I feel comfortable doing both.”
– The Magic have to deal with Al, too. Dwight didn’t get to be defensive player of the year by chasing quick, athletic guys around on the perimeter. “They have a load down low and we have a guy that makes outside jumpshots in Al,” Josh said. “There are going to be some mismatches in the series. We just have to see where they are at.”
– Another good sign for the Hawks was Marvin getting better at defending and rebounding. Can’t say it enough: If he can do both of those things consistently and sprinkle in a couple games of 15-20 points, that’s a lot.
– Zaza also played better in the final two games. Because of Zaza, the Hawks were even better after Smoove got into foul trouble today. “It didn’t affect anything,” Woody said. “It gave as an opportunity to go big. It gave us an opportunity to move Al to the 4 and put Zaza at the 5. I don’t think we really lost a whole lot. We just continued to flow.”
– For all of the (justified) talk about the Hawks struggling to overcome an opponent with inferior talent, give the Bucks some Ps. Said Zaza: “Of course losing is terrible and no one wants to lose, but they should be proud of [themselves]. I give a lot of credit to Coach Skiles and the players there. They were really fighting. They almost had us.”
– Once Brandon Jennings gets his game under control, look out. “He’s a talented young man,” Woody said. “If he’s able to stay healthy he will have a long career. It’s nice to see a young guy figure it out that early.”
– Woody before the game: “All those people that wrote us off, they don’t dribble one ball up and down that court, they don’t shoot a jump shot, they don’t rebound the ball, they don’t get defensive stops and they surely don’t coach the team. It ain’t about all these people outside our circle. Any team will say that. It’s about the people who go to battle and work in the locker room. I could care less about what you guys write or say.”
– It’s been my experience that coaches and players who say they don’t care about criticism really do care. How can they not? It would bother me if I were in the same position. It’s human nature. That’s why I want to be rich but not famous. Yeah, I know, I’m 0-for-2.
– I’m out, Hawks fans.