Bucks-Hawks Game 3: Bucks need to lose their shock and awe

Josh Smith wouldn’t vacation in Milwaukee. We knew that was coming.

Scott Skiles was runner up for Coach of the Year and his response was “no comment.”

Jerry Stackhouse will be proud of Smith if the Hawks win this series and is expecting a call from him very soon after its over.  What, Jerry? 

Skiles has compared the Bucks to their former selves (the team that played defense) and found them woefully lacking. They’re not challenging shots, they’re not pressuring the ball, and Josh Smith is shooting uncontested dunks and layups.   This Bucks defense isn’t just average — it’s been one of the best defenses in the league all season.  But they’ve been a shadow of the team that, all season long, was rated as highly as the Bobcats and Magic.

This isn’t about missing Andrew Bogut — it’s about playing sloppy, being unfocused and allowing the Hawks to throw lob dunks over the top of your defense.  Josh Smith is supposed to get that one or two times a game — not seven times.  The Bucks have lacked their usual intensity and are making it easy for the Hawks.

  Why can’t John Salmons wipe the look of shock and awe and … appreciation? … off of his face in that photo of Smith dunking in Game 2 (at right)?   Salmons has yet to show up on defense in either game. Forward Carlos Delfino’s play has been lackluster, to put it kindly.

Breaking things down, mentally

Scott Skiles: “It’s not like anybody is dunking in a crowd on us. They’re wide open. All we’re comparing ourselves to is ourselves. We normally don’t give that stuff up. If we break down their shots outside the paint, we’re respectable in defending that right now. But we’re struggling with the paint points, some in transition and some when we’re not paying full attention.”

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: “We also had some mental breakdowns. We’ve got to come back to our principles, go back to what we do best and make sure we defend inside-out. If we do that, we’re going to be in a good position.”   

Mbah a Moute says he sees himself guarding Smih in Game 3.  That won’t do the Bucks much good if Salmons and Delfino are left to guard Joe Johnson.  After locking Johnson’s game up for the better part of Game 1 (31 mins), Mbah a Moute played just 18 mins of Game 2.  Skiles can’t expect great defense out of the Bucks if he refuses to play his best defender more than 18 mins.

The Hawks run 40% of their offense through Johnson.

Atlanta made 11 dunks and 19 layups in the first two games of the series in winning, 102-92 and 96-86.

The Hawks 2009-10 road record:  19 – 22

What to expect in Game 3:   Expect the Bucks to finally show up in this series, their backs to the wall at home.   One hope is that Skiles will get Ersan Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute on the court more than they were in Game 2. 

Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute give the Bucks their best defense against Johnson-Smith, and are just generally disruptive on the court with an uncanny ability for the little “50-50” plays that change possessions and win games. Ilyasova can produce on offense, and has all season long (16 pts per 36 mins). 

In Game 2: Ersan scored 13 pts and snared 15 rebounds in 24 mins.

I’m not sure I expect to see more Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute, though. I expected that in Game 2 and got less of it.

Players to watch:  Brandon Jennings needs to have a decent offensive game, that goes without saying.  But keep an eye on John Salmons. He has been very sluggish in starting both Game 1 and 2, and he’s been killing the ball movement on offense. His defense on Joe Johnson has been as terrible as it has been all season.     The Bucks need Salmons’ scoring.  And Mbah a Moute’s defense.

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