I said going into the playoffs that, under the radar, Hawks/Bucks could be the best series of the first round. It’s looking like Spurs/Mavs will take that title, but with the Hawks and Bucks tied up at two games apiece going back to Atlanta for tonight’s Game 5, it could still be the only series to go seven games in the first round.
That didn’t seem possible after the Hawks won Games 1 and 2 handily, but then they got swept in Milwaukee, as Brandon Jennings and John Salmons finally started playing well at the same time, and Carlos Delfino went off for six triples and a Dunk of the Playoffs candidate in Game 4.
With national TV analysts Charles Barkley and Chris Webber both pretty much publicly writing off the Hawks as a legit contender following that most recent loss, public opinion has swelled that ATL is in serious trouble, and that they got lazy and overlooked the Bucks on the road. Hawks coach Mike Woodson addressed that charge in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“We’re not like that,” said Woodson. “We’re not the Lakers. I don’t think the Lakers took Oklahoma lightly and I don’t think any team in this league … When you look at what has happened throughout the regular season, any team is capable of being beat on any night by any team. The parity has really leveled out in terms of beating teams in this league. So our guys are not like that.”
It would not be advisable for the Hawks to take any team lightly when they are away from home in the playoffs, considering that they are now 1-10 in postseason road games over the last three seasons.
After the Bucks jumped out to a 17-point lead after one quarter on their way to victory in Game 3, Woodson emphasized to his team the importance of getting off to a better start in Game 4, which it did.
The Hawks jumped out to a six-point lead in the opening minutes, although Milwaukee led by three after one quarter and by four at halftime. The Bucks repelled all Atlanta charges in the second half.
The Hawks still have homecourt over the last three games of the series, and should it go to Game 7, that would be in Atlanta. So even if they can’t win on the road, they might be OK. But they’ll have to fix that if they hope to knock off Orlando in the conference semis.
“The momentum’s still with us,” Josh Smith said in that same article. “They did what they had to do. We were just trying to come in and steal one game, and we weren’t able to do that. We have to go home and play with the intensity that we’ve always been doing throughout the year.”
If the Hawks get past Milwaukee, do you think they can beat Orlando in the next round?