Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 97, Bucks 92
Milwaukee–The Hawks really didn’t solve their issues with holding second-half leads. They still had too many bad possessions, still gave up too many rebounds, and still had too many turnovers at key times.
- But they also had Joe Johnson, who took over after a rough opening half. In this league, sometimes when a lot of things aren’t going right a team just needs its best player to make plays. Joe did it tonight in spite of Stephen Jackson and Co.’s best efforts to slow him.
- “I just tried to alter my focus a little bit coming into tonight,” Joe said, “understanding that these five road games are very important and without Al [Horford] we all have to step up and do just a little more.”
- Joe said he got it going on a play call in the third quarter that got him into the lane. From there, he showed off his ball-handling skills and all-court game. “That’s why I gave him the ball every time down,” Jeff Teague said. “He was just making plays like an All-Star should. He’s almost unguardable. He can dribble, he can shoot midrange, he can get to the cup. Just get the ball in his hands and he goes.”
- “You’ve got to milk the cow until there is no milk left,” Josh Smith said. “They was beating on him all night and he showed so much resilience. He didn’t stop playing, played hard and kept adding physicality on his end. It’s just good to see when your leader is able to lead like that.”
- Joe (and Teague and Josh) played all 24 minutes after halftime. “The one thing I wanted to do in the second half was get him into a rhythm,” Larry Drew said. “I had my mind made up I was going to ride him in the second half.”
- Josh had another All-Star line: 19 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots, no turnovers. And, of course, that dagger 3 from the corner with four seconds on the shot clock.
- Josh said he didn’t know it was going to swing around to him: “I was ready for it, though. I just cherish moments when guys give me the opportunity and put the trust in me. I feel obligated not to let them down. ”
- Teague probably could have shot or made a play off the dribble but instead passed to Josh when Ersan Ilyasova came off of him. “I’ve got confidence in Smoove,” Teague said.
- That sequence was set up when Johnson drew a double team and passed to Teague on the weak side. “We broke down a little but but Joe puts pressure on you,” Scott Skiles said. “He’s a legitimate 6-8, he collapses the defense and he can see people. He made a nice pass out, Teague made a nice play and Josh knocked it down.”
- That play, Joe’s six free throws in the final 16.7 seconds and Marvin Williams’ deflection of Mike Dunleavy’s pass) salvaged what had been another lackluster offensive fourth quarter for the Hawks. “We had some bad stretches in the fourth quarter, but we kept fighting,” Drew said. “When they took the lead in the fourth quarter, it was a chance for us to see what we are made of. Our guys persevered and Josh came up with the three and Joe was absolutely phenomenal.”
- Atlanta defended Milwaukee well in the fourth quarter but gave up five offensive rebounds.
- The Hawks got a nice road W in a rough-and-tumble game. The Bucks tried to muck it up and Josh and Zaza Pachulia (14 rebounds, five personal fouls) were up to the task. It was pretty physical around the basket, similar to the game at Indy, and the Hawks responded better this time.
- Teague was excellent in the first half (11 points on five shots, four rebounds). He struggled after halftime: Brandon Jennings rubbed him off screens too easily and kept picking his pocket.
- Marvin never really got into the flow offensively, so he played 22 minutes to Tracy McGrady’s 26.
- T-Mac missed some clean looks but it’s kind of fun to watch him when he’s in playmaker mode (five assists, no turnovers). Sometimes it looks like he’s dribbling aimlessly into trouble but then suddenly he’s passing to a teammate for a good look. His athleticism has declined but he has plus court vision and instincts and also always seems to come up with a couple key rebounds.
- Vladimir Radmanovic reversed recent trends by making shots (2 of 3 3-pointers) and not adding much else in the box score in his eight minutes. Give Jannero Pargo credit for his ability to get his shot off when the offense is bogged down.
- Ivan Johnson got second-half burn but was quickly pulled when he took a quick J in the fourth quarter.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat