Tag Archives: Tyreke Evans

Bucks-Hawks Game 5: Brandon Jennings… Hawks frontline shrinking down to size… D-Wade and the Heat… and other playoff notes

THE MAGNIFICENT DAMAGE that Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings inflicted on the Hawks porous D Monday in Game 4 has a lot of people rethinking the Bucks-Hawks series now that it’s tied 2-2.  Jennings’ bout with playoff inexperience (Game 2) is behind him, and the 20-year-old point guard is on the attack, his confidence and aggressiveness growing as the series progresses. The Hawks don’t have a defender who can stay in front of the young Buck.

Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson was asked whether the Hawks needed to make any adjustments. He said no, that his team needed “more energy, more passion and heart. “

In other words, there are no adjustments the Hawks can make for Jennings.  There’s no Kobe Bryant on the roster to assign himself the responsibility, as Kobe did against Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook in their Game 5.  If the task is left to Al Horford and Josh Smith, switching onto Young Buck on high screens, Jennings’ teammates have plenty more unchallenged layups coming their way. If point guard Mike Bibby switches to allow Marvin Williams or Johnson a turn on Jennings, John Salmons and Carlos Delfino have the field days they had Monday (44 pts combined). The Hawks are an average defensive team (15th in the league) with very below average perimeter defenders. At this point, they have no choice but to live with it.

As for heart, passion, energy and determination, Jennings brings it almost every night, and so do most of his teammates. The Bucks were the wrong team for the Hawks to give any kind of foothold to.

The HAWKS are in the NBA news quite a bit today: Rumors have Hawks management planning to lowball Woodson (I think they’re just going to fire him), offer Joe Johnson a max contract and possible sell their first round draft pick for $3 mill.  Peachtree Hoops wonders if the Hawks are still in the playoffs.  Less and less, Hawks fans.

A PET PEEVE: The disparity between the perception of the Hawks’ front court and the reality of the Hawks front court is almost a national phenomenon. Let’s set the record straight and see if anybody’s paying attention:

Josh Smith, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia do not have a size advantage over the Bucks’ Luc Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, Kurt Thomas and Dan Gadzuric. This is plain for the eye to see yet everybody continues to report, write, comment that the Hawks are failing to exploit “a size advantage.”

Horford is an undersized center, and that’s not good enough in the playoffs. At age 23, even journeyman NBA centers are going to be,

1) Bigger and stronger;

2) More skilled in at least a facet or two of the game; and,

3) A lot more experienced.

Andrew Bogut’s two-headed center in relief (Thomas and Gadzuric) are any one (or all) of those three things and it shows. Even Gadzuric, who was hardly active all season, has been around long enough to control the glass and play good D. Gadz has played Horford strong and outplayed Pachulia in his 18 minutes in Game 4 and the first half of the Game 3 blowout.

Smith does give the Hawks some advantages at power forward — experience, upper body strength and ups.  But now that he’s battling Mbah a Moute and Ilyasova instead of Carlos Delfino and Ilyasova, the Bucks have matched Smith up. Let’s be real, NBA faithful — some of that heft Smith is carrying around isn’t muscle, and it shows when he’s up against the quicker Mbah a Moute.  …  “The Prince” and Ersan are both taller than Smith and long-armed, too.  They’ve also outproduced Josh in this series.

Sixth Man of the Year: The Hawks Jamal Crawford won it, but before it was announced Journal Sentinel scribe Tom Enlund asked Crawford what it was like playing for Scott Skiles on the 2003-04 Chicago Bulls.  Let’s just say Enlund left out some important details in this blurb — like Crawford’s nonexistent D and the fact that the Bulls shipped him out of Chi-town after Skiles’ first season.

Crawford is a good shooter and averaged 18 off the bench for the Hawks this season.  He shot well in Game 1 but looked awfully lost on the court in the first playoff series of is career — until  Game 4.  Now that he’s “back to normal” as he put it, it’s probably a good idea to stay at home on him. Luke Ridnour and Brandon Jennings draw the Crawford assignment more often than not.

Hawks Coach Mike Woodson: His contract’s up, the Hawks won’t talk to him about it, and he’ll be gone after the playoffs — the Bucks have assured that.  Vinnie Del Negro’s job in Chicago is probably more secure than Woodson’s, though at this point Woodson probably wouldn’t mind parting ways with the Hawks’ brass.   “Sources say” the Bulls won’t decide on Del Negro’s fate until sometime this weekend, but that was an ESPN story so … wait for the Chicago papers before telling your friends and neighbors or that stranger in the bar stool next to you. The Bulls put up a great fight to get into the playoffs and an even better one against the Cavs. Del Negro doesn’t deserve the axe.

The Miami Heat are impressive.  Overmatched and down 0-3 to the Celtics, Dwyane Wade pulled them to 1-3 on Sunday.  Then in Game 5 Tuesday in Boston, the Heat withstood a textbook Celtics offensive game and were hanging in there, down seven, staying well within D-Wade striking distance. …

I’m a Celtics/Ray Allen fan, not a surprising revelation from a Bucks blogger. And I’ve always liked KG’s game. How quickly so many have forgetten that Garnett was hands down the best player in the NBA circa 2003-05 when Shaq-Kobe malfunctioned in L.A.   The thing I’ve had to get over in following the Celtics is Paul Pierce and the ill will that I had toward the Pierce-Antoine Walker teams of the late 1990’s-2003.  Walker and his sluggish ball-hoggery were the source of those feelings, to be sure, but Pierce bears some responsibility in his role as Walker’s better half.  But I got over it and make it a point to watch the Celtics whenever I can, adopting them as “my team” for the playoffs in the absence of the Bucks in 2008 and ’09.

I can say with fandom authority that the Celtics don’t play much better than they did Tuesday in Game 5, and when the Celtics are good, they’re as good as anybody in the NBA.  Yet the Heat refused to go away until the final 1:30 of the game.  Sure, being led by the 2nd best player in the NBA (sorry Dwight) goes a long way — of course it does. But what’s really impressive is how unifed and indomnable the team behind him is.  At times they even seem like an organic extension of Wade on both ends of the court.  This is a credit to Erik Spoelstra, one of the more underrated coaches in the NBA, and says a lot about Wade as a leader.

The organic effect, visually speaking, is aided by Michael Beasley, such a natural ball player (even when he’s being benched in Game 5), but it comes through in everything the Heat do on the court. Their ball movement and spacing is always good, their shot selection just as good; and Spoelstra has them playing tough, sticky, ball pressure defense that rotates as well as the Top 4 Eastern conference defenses (Charlotte, Orlando, Milwaukee and Boston). In Toronto, Jermaine O’Neal seemed out of place and on his last legs. In Miami he’s a defensive presence, a legitimate and effective center.

The Celtics prevailed 96-86 (24 pts and 5 threes from Ray) and the Heat have “gone fishing,” to quote Kenny and Charles. A retooling is ahead in the offseason with most of the Heat roster in free agency and cap space to land an All-Star.  I don’t see Wade leaving Miami/Spoelstra (neither does he, it seems) nor do I see Heat GM Pat Riley failing to bring in the right big man (Bosh, Boozer, maybe David Lee?). Riley will let others make the Ama’re Stoudemire mistake.

A DIFFERENT BREED (Tyreke Evans not included).  Sekou Smith tracked down Bucks guard John Salmons this week for his “Hang Time” blog at NBA.com. The reason?  Salmons has had the unique experience of sharing backcourts this season with Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings. How are Rose and Jennings able to be so good so young?

“They’re just a different breed,” Salmons concludes. Writer Smith names Jennings, Rose, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in his context.  He’d like to include Rookie of the Year favorite Tyreke Evans in the mix, but it doesn’t sound as though Salmons and Jennings are willing to play ball r.e. the Kings rookie. Here’s what Jennings had to say:

“I think it really depends on the person and how he approaches the games. Kevin Durant is a winner. Derrick Rose is a winner. Of course, I like to win. I’ve been saying that from the first day I got here. Winning is everything to me. So it just depends on the type person you are, the player you are.” — Brandon Jennings.

20-5-5? Don’t get me started about the historical irrelevance of this thing. Five rebounds from the guard position is tough in any day and NBA era and it’s great that Evans has a nose for the ball and a drive for the glass. But as the #1 scorer on the ping-counting Kings, Evans and his team would have been better served in the long run had he focused less on passing and more on his shooting/scoring  That’s what Jerry West did in his first few years in the league, and West didn’t hit the 5 assists mark (per 36) minutes until his 3rd year in the NBA.  He was too busy putting the ball in the hole.  Not to put Evans in the company of West, who played before my time, nor to say that 5 assists is anything to be aimed for … don’t get me started on 20-5-5.

Sactown Royalty has learned that Evans has won Rookie of the Year, which will be annonced later this week.  Jennings has accomplished more this season, leading a team still very much in transition — and making personnel changes on the go — into the playoffs.  It wouldn’t have happened had Jennings cared less about winning.

“Scott Skiles: More than a tough guy.” You gotta love the guys at Celticsblog.com. After the last regular season game, blogger tenaciousT eschewed the usual press conference mumbo jumbo and decided to spend his time in the Bucks locker room interviewing Bucks players about what makes their coach tick.

Scott Skiles, writes tenaciousT, is intriguing because, well, “coaching styles, personalities and results” are intriguing.  TenaciousT is like a lot of Celtics fans who appreciate defense, so he wanted to know how one of the NBA’s top defensive coaches makes it all work.

Tenacious interviews Skiles and the veterans: Kurt Thomas, Charlie Bell, John Salmons and Jerry Stackhouse. There are comments from Skiles on whether his Chicago Bulls “stopped listening” to him.  The comments from Salmons, the fish who saves but can opt out and leave, are worth a read. Most candid was Charlie Bell, tenacious says, and pay no attention to the elephant in the room during his interview with Charlie.

Bango is nuts! This was at Game 4.  What does he have planned for Game 6?

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Bucks making it easy for the Hawks

Bucks coach Scott Skiles was runner up in the coach of the year voting, but right now he's looking for hair to pull out over his Bucks' play against the Hawks.Two games into this playoffs series, just about the last thing I expected to write was this:   The Bucks aren’t challenging the Hawks’ shots and they’re lacking focus. They’ve hardly resembled the defensive Bucks team the NBA is used to.

Scott Skiles’ constant pressure defense has a few basic principles. Constant pressure on the ball, no switching on picks (the fight-through pick rule) and show help/don’t leave your man. The intended result of these activities is a sticky defensive stew in which the Bucks should be in position to tightly contest shooters. The consequence of not contesting shots is usually a seat on the bench.

The Hawks have generally been a lot more open than Bucks opponents usually are, and Skiles is not happy about it. Milwaukee Journal NBA beat reporter, Tom Enlund, is back in action for the playoffs, and Enlund reports that Skiles’ shot challenge charts from Games 1 and 2 are looking rather bare.

“We need to have a minimum of about 75% contested shots and we’re well below that right now,” said Skiles.

[Edit: Whether or not center Andrew Bogut is in the lineup shouldn’t impact whether or not (searching for the right example here) … John Salmons is sluggish on defense.]

In other news from Skiles:  “Our focus hasn’t been where it normally is.”

The Bucks have one shot to find theire focus and get it back to normal. If they lose Game 3 Saturday, they fall down 0-3 to the Hawks. Nobody’s ever come back from O-3 to win an NBA playoff series.

Coach of the Year:  While the Bucks were busy making the Hawks look like the Lakers, the NBA was preparing to release it’s Coach of the Year voting results. And the winner is:  Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks, down 0-2 to the actual Lakers.  The Thunder went from the lottery and 22-47 record in Brooks’  “interim” last year to 50 wins and the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Maybe they did it by surprising a lot of teams but Brooks’ Thunder play some D.  They finished in the league’s top 10 in defensive rating, in that 2nd hextile the Cavs fell to this season. It’s not a bad place to be — the Spurs, Jazz and D-Wade’s Heat are in the 2nd tier, too.

Brooks won 58% of the first place votes on the 123 NBA media ballots, a landslide. Skiles finished a strong enough second for people who tend to dribble around in cyberspace about the NBA to conclude this was a race of two Scotts. That’s fine. The lackluster play of the Bucks on Tuesday does, however, lead me to believe that the voters probably chose the right Scott.

Bucks in the West: As the ROY race tightens …

Bucks @ Denver Nuggets, 8:00 pm CST, FsWis

Double OT: Bucks 114, Kings 108

This one never seemed to be going well, even in the first half when Brandon Jennings was hitting five three balls and the Bucks maintained a 5-7 point edge throughout, only to see it cut to one at halftime. Rarely does so much deadeye long range bombing go for naught.

That’s because a lot of other things weren’t going so well for the Bucks. Andrew Bogut was big in the paint but the shots weren’t falling (7-18, late in the 4th) and his free throws (1-6) had reverted to last year’s clanking form. The Kings’ 21-year-old center, Spencer Hawes, was getting loose in and around the paint for putback dunks and other short range damage (18 pts, 8 rebs, 6 assists) while Kings guard Beno Udrih was having the game of his life, slashing, twisting and leaning his way to a season-high 26 pts and 9 assists. Udrih averages 12.2 pts per game.

And then there was Carl Landry, sent to Sacramento from Houston as part of the deal that sent Tracy McGrady to the Knicks. As usual, Landry was everywhere the Bucks didn’t want him to be. After Jennings sank one (his 8th of the game) from downtown to pull the Bucks within 2 at 84-82, a Landry lay-in, a Udrih three and a putback by Ime Udoka (yes, he’s killed the Bucks on the glass before) made it 91-82 as the clock ticked under the 2-minute mark.

What was going on in Sacramento? Hawes, Udrih, Udoka? Who are these guys? This was supposed to be the battle of the Rookie of the Year contenders, Jennings and Tyreke Evans (who would soon be headed for the trainers’ room, his jaw split after a collision with an Ersan Ilyasova elbow on a rebounding play). Jennings wasn’t matched on Evans — he guarded Udrih, the Kings point guard. John Salmons took the Evans assignment.

Then the advantages the Bucks had been looking for all night arrived, all in the space of two minutes. Ilyasova hit a jumper. Udrih missed on a drive and, when Hawes grabbed the rebound, he foolishly shot instead of running clock.  Ex-King Salmons hit for three to make it 91-87. Landry did what he rarely does against the Bucks — he missed. Bogut dunked (that’ll improve the offensive efficiency) off a Salmons dish, and it was down to two.

Two Kings free throws, a Salmons three, more Kings free throws and a high arcing 27-foot bomb from Ilyasova tied the game and sent it into OT. The Kings never stood a chance. They lived to fight a second OT but were playing uphill the entire 10 minutes of extra play. The Bucks had finally found their groove 46 mins into regulation, not a second too late.

And Hawes could have won it by simply NOT shooting with a fresh shot clock and about a minute-and-a-half to play. Though he’s 21 (soon to be 22), he’s in his 3rd pro season and has probably been playing roundball since he was a little Spencer. There’s no excuse for getting greedy at the prospect of winning the boxscore battle against a rising All-Pro center who’s had a big feature article at yahoo.com staring a nation of the NBA obsessed in their million mosaic face at yahoo.com. Why else would the hoop look so tempting? Hawes lost the boxscore battle anyway, as though it were the moral to a Red Auerbach basketball fable. Bogut finished with 21 pts, 11 boards, two blocks and two steals, and never quit playing (Hawes kinda disappeared). Let this be a lesson to young Spencer, who does seem to have a bright future ahead if the Kings stick with him.

In the 12 mins spanning the final two minutes of regulation and two OTs, the Bucks outscored the Kings 32-17.  Salmons led with 12 , Ilyasova added 7,  Bogut 6, Jennings 4 (35 on the night) and Delfino finally hit his first three of the night. It was too much for Sacramento, a team built for youth, not necessarily for crunchtime grit and savvy.

That’s not to say that the Bucks are old pros at this. Earlier in the season, they might have lost this one. But after 33 games settled by three points or less and seven overtimes (won 2, lost 5), the Bucks may be getting the hang of this.  Having Salmons around to bail them out in the clutch certainly doesn’t hurt the cause.  Here are the highlights:

The Bucks starters played heavy minutes to finish the Kings off (53 mins for Salmons, 45 for Bogut, 45 for Jennings and 47 for Delfino).  If I were Scott Skiles (and I’m not) I’d give Bogut tonight off in Denver and take it easy on his primary rotation mates, giving the bench players an opportunity to find their rhythm. Name any one of them other than Ersan — they’re out of sync and struggling, and could use some extended playing time together.

The Bucks play Eastern conference rival the Atlanta Hawks at the BC Monday in a game that has all sorts of implications for the Bucks. The Hawks are a measuring stick of the Bucks progress, a very possible Round One playoff opponent and a team the Bucks have yet to beat this year. It’s the first game of a 5-game homestand which the Bucks may have visions of sweeping if their legs aren’t dead from the road. They’ve already beaten Denver this year, Nov. 11 at the BC. No need to wear the starters out going for a season sweep in the West that would be tough enough to get when well-rested.

Puppy love: Brandon Jennings has a crush on Ciara.  Apparently, he tells all in the next issue of GQ Magazine, coming soon to a newstand near you.  My advice: Don’t buy GQ — just click this link and read all about it at Ball Don’t Lie. They’re all over it, got an advanced copy of the mag, like, really.

Ciara who?