The Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks played a trio of close games during the regular season, which should translate to a nail-biting first-round playoff series full of close games.
It should, but it won’t.
Milwaukee is without its biggest impact player, Andrew Bogut, and as a result, Atlanta’s big scorers will have an even easier time getting to the hoop.
Unlike Bogut’s cringe-inducing injury, this series should be quick and painless.
The Regular Season
Records: Atlanta finished the regular season with a 53-29 record; Milwaukee went 46-36.
Season series: The Hawks won the three-game series 2-1. Atlanta’s 104-96 win on April 12 was the largest margin of victory in the three games; the Hawks won the first game, on Feb. 28, 106-102, and the Bucks took the second game, on March 22, 98-95.
(All times Eastern)
Game 1: Saturday, April 17, Milwaukee at Atlanta, 5:30 p.m.
Game 2: Tuesday, April 20, Milwaukee at Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Saturday, April 24, Atlanta at Milwaukee, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Monday, April 26, Atlanta at Milwaukee, TBD
Game 5: Wednesday, April 28, Milwaukee at Atlanta, TBD (if necessary)
Game 6: Friday, April 30, Atlanta at Milwaukee, TBD (if necessary)
Game 7: Sunday, May 2, Milwaukee at Atlanta, TBD (if necessary)
Atlanta made it to the second round in 2008-09, beating the Miami Heat 4-3 in the opening round before being swept in the second round by Cleveland. The Bucks are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, when they lost 4-1 to Detroit in the first round.
Atlanta coach Mike Woodson is familiar with Milwaukee – he was an assistant coach for the Bucks from 1996 to 1999. Woodson’s Hawks have several scoring threats, including leader Joe Johnson, who averages 21.3 points a game, in addition to 4.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds. Along with Johnson, Jamal Crawford (18.0 ppg) and Mike Bibby (10.1) give the Hawks three-point-shooting threats. Josh Smith is a do-it-all forward who averages 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 blocks per game. Center Al Horford turns in 14.2 points and 9.9 rebounds a game, and should have an easier time scoring against Milwaukee without Bogut there to guard him. Marvin Williams averages 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Atlanta boasts a strong bench, including Crawford, who is a candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, Zaza Pachulia and Jeff Teague.
The biggest storyline for Milwaukee is the loss of Bogut, who averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks before suffering multiple injuries to his right arm in a game against the Phoenix Suns on April 3. According to NBA.com, Bogut’s injuries included a dislocated elbow, sprained wrist and broken hand. He underwent surgery and is not expected to return until next season. The Bucks will turn to a center-by-committee approach to replace Bogut, with Kurt Thomas getting the starting nod and Dan Gadzuric and Primoz Brezec as the backups. Luc Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova have also seen time at center since Bogut’s injury. John Salmons has led the Bucks in scoring since he was acquired from the Chicago Bulls, scoring 19.9 points in 30 games with Milwaukee. Point guard Brandon Jennings has had a superb rookie season, starting all 82 games and averaging 15.5 points and 5.7 assists. Carlos Delfino (11.0), Luke Ridnour (10.4) and Ilyasova (10.4) also average double-figure scoring for Milwaukee, and Jerry Stackhouse provides a lift off the bench.
The Bottom Line
The Bucks would have had a hard time in this series, anyway, but without Bogut in the middle, the Hawks will roll. Prediction: Atlanta advances with a sweep.
2009-10 Bucks Regular Statistics, NBA
2009-10 Hawks Regular Statistics, NBA