Game 1 between the Hawks and Bucks was over at halftime. The Hawks played a perfect half of basketball and the Bucks appeared shell shocked. Atlanta had a balanced scoring attack with six players in double figures for the game while the Bucks, without the services of Andrew Bogut, looked totally outmatched and overwhelmed. The most surprising aspect of Game 1 was the Bucks’ defense in the first half. Defense has been their staple all season and they allowed the Hawks 62 first-half points. That was totally inexcusable. They needed rookie Brandon Jennings to score 34 points in his first playoff game to even keep this game close. But Jennings, terrific for the first three quarters, faded in the fourth quarter.
The second half was a different story. If the Bucks can find a way to play the way they did in the second half they have a chance to win a few games in this series. They defended at a high level and they executed on offense. The Hawks helped the Bucks’ cause by losing focus, settling for one-on-one jump shots and not attacking the basket. They played a very inconsistent second half and let the Bucks back in the game.
Game 2 Adjustments
With the injuries to Bogut and Michael Redd, the Atlanta Hawks have too much talent for Milwaukee. The Hawks’ gameplan for Game 2 is very simple: execute on offense, attack all the mismatches, drive the ball to the basket, dominate the paint and do not settle for jump shots. The Bucks, unfortunately, cannot guard this team one-on-one because there is just too much of a talent differential. But the Hawks also need to improve their defensive effort on Jennings; it is a little embarrassing for a rookie to score at will in his first playoff game. They need Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford -- with a lot of help from their teammates -- to contain this lighting-quick guard.
The one thing that the Bucks got out of the second half of this game is that they proved to themselves that they can defend and score against the Hawks. In Game 2, they need to get back to playing the defense that coach Scott Skiles has instilled in them. Secondly, the Bucks need to put as many shooters on the court as possible. They really struggle to make open shots. John Salmons needs to step up in Game 2. Salmons played better in the second half of Game 1 but he was nonexistent in the first half. The Bucks cannot expect Jennings to score 30-plus points in each game, so they must get help from other places.
The Josh Smith matchup killed the Bucks in the first half. They may have to go bigger and put Ersan Ilyasova on him to start the game or come with him early off the bench on Smith. Carlos Delfino is a good defender but he does not have the height or body to defend Smith.
Prediction: Atlanta in six