No matter the record or seeding, some teams just give you a tough time.
For Atlanta, that has been the Milwaukee Bucks so far this season after defeating them three out of the four meetings last year. But this year has been a different story, as the Bucks have defeated Atlanta twice with both games defeats ending in overtime. This matchup has a boxing match feel to it, two contrasting styles, Rocky versus Drago.
This one ended with Atlanta’s arm being raised up last winning 101-90, capturing their first win over the Bucks this season.
“At the end of the day they are in the top two or three, if not the best at scoring in the paint,”said Coach Mike Budenholzer. “We wanted to do everything we could to take that away.”
Hawks only trailed momentarily in the first couple minutes of the game, but never did thereafter despite not shooting the ball well — 42.3% from the field and 15.6% from 3 — because of yet another strong defensive effort. Milwaukee’s length and athleticism are the main reasons the Hawks have such a difficult time running their offense. The Bucks decided this game to place more emphasis on the Hawks 3-point attempts, which meant more opportunities inside for Atlanta. They were able to capitalize, scoring 58 points in the paint.
On defense, Atlanta decided to pack the paint and limit the longer Bucks from points in the paint. Games like is just another testament to the Atlanta’s ability to win in a variety of ways, which will come in handy in late April or May. This time instead of their usual emphasis on aggressively guarding perimeter players, they showed the ability to clog the paint and still be effective.
“This is a team that has given us problems over the last couple years,” said Kyle Korver post-game. “They are a tough team for us to play against. We wanted to protect the paint and force them to shoot from the outside. It is important for us to grind games out against a team thats big when we are not shooting the ball that well.”
Today’s offensive numbers may have been ugly tonight, but the Hawks’ offensive has looked better as of late and is ahuge part of the reason why they are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference, winning eight of their last ten games. They are shooting well (48.7% from the field in the past five games), the pace of the games have been in their favor, the ball movement has been much more crisp and that explains the low turnover count in the past five games (13.8).
This couldn’t have come at a better time with just nine games left in the season. The defense has carried them, but the focus to bring the offense along seems to be at a high priority for the players.
“They are understanding what we have to do to be good going into the playoffs and it seems like they’re executing on both ends of the court,” said Coach Budenholzer.
Hawks have a tough couple games ahead of them, as they will be facing the Detroit Pistons on Saturday and Chicago Bulls on Monday, two desperate teams playing looking to clinch a final spot in the playoffs. However, the Hawks are looking to lock up their own playoff seed, so expect these games to be a couple of slugfests.