Horford, Hawks roll past Bucks
“It’s nice to watch when we’re sharing the ball, different guys are getting involved. When we play like that, it seems like we’re at our best,” Horford said.
The Hawks (20-13) returned to Milwaukee for the first time since winning a pivotal Game 6 in the first round of the playoffs to send the series back to Atlanta where they won to advance.
They got it done this time by opening a double-digit lead in the first quarter and shooting 50.7 percent from the field for the game.
“There’s going to be some games where it’s going to take grinding it out, being a little bit more selective on the offensive end and doing a good job in transition, not allowing the opposition to get that running game going,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
John Salmons scored 18 for the Bucks, who struggled in their first home game after a successful Western Conference trip.
Milwaukee (12-17) put together an 8-1 run in the second half to close to 61-53, but Josh Smith, who finished with 13 points, responded with a jumper that restored Atlanta’s double-digit lead.
Salmons, who had 12 points in the third, hit a 3 that cut it to 69-62, but the Bucks’ rally fizzled. Marvin Williams made a long jumper and Johnson added a fadeaway that made it 77-67 heading into the fourth.
“Once we answered them, that sort of took a little wind out of their sails, we locked in defensively in that fourth quarter and made it tough,” said Atlanta’s Jason Collins, who finished with 12 rebounds.
Milwaukee failed to mount a run in the final quarter, and the lackluster play continued.
The Bucks shot 37.3 percent from the field and went 4 for 15 from 3-point range. Andrew Bogut finished with 14 points on 7-of-19 shooting and had 11 rebounds, but was frustrated about the poor defensive effort.
“That’s it right there,” Bogut said. “I’ll even give you a quote on that: ’When we let teams shoot a high percentage, we lose.” ’
Milwaukee is 0-6 this year when allowing opponents to shoot 50 percent or better.
“We had a big letdown yesterday in New Orleans and we wanted to just come out and establish ourselves on the defensive end,” Smith said. “Grinding, stopping the momentum, keeping the crowd out of it, that’s the big factor.”
The Hawks returned all their main players from last year but Drew took over for Mike Woodson. Drew has tried to change up the offensive schemes to keep Atlanta from being predictable.
It certainly looked as if Milwaukee had no idea what the Hawks were doing despite coming in as one of the best defenses in the league and winning two of three on a Western Conference trip that included a win over the Lakers.
“We were searching most of the night, trying to find anything that would work with any consistency,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “We weren’t able to find it.”
Smith scored eight points early and Atlanta grabbed a 52-35 lead on Smith’s alley-oop dunk from Johnson. Johnson hit a runner in the lane that made it 57-39.
Milwaukee was without several key pieces again.
Brandon Jennings is out at least three more weeks after left foot surgery. Drew Gooden is dealing with his own left foot injury that’s caused him to miss three games and nine of the last 14. Carlos Delfino hasn’t played since early November with lingering symptoms of a concussion.
“The Bucks have some guys that were out, that factors in,” Horford said. “But, we’ll take the win.”