NBA Playoff Recap - East First Round, Game 3
(6) Milwaukee 107, (3) Atlanta 89 - Hawks lead series, 2-1
Is it going to be that kind of a postseason once again for the Atlanta Hawks?
It's hard to see how the Milwaukee Bucks can actually win this first-round series, but after Saturday night's lopsided contest at a revved-up Bradley Center in Milwaukee, it seems entirely possible that a seven-game series is in the making.
In each of the past two seasons, Coach Mike Woodson's athletes from Atlanta have gone the distance in their first-round NBA postseason series. In 2008, the Hawks - as a No. 8 seed - took the eventual world champion Boston Celtics to seven games before falling. Last year, the Hawks - as a No. 4 seed - were taken to seven before ultimately subduing the fifth-rated Miami Heat. In each of those series, home court meant everything. In those 14 games, spread over two series over two years, the Hawks won just one road game while losing only one home contest. In 12 of the 14 games, home cooking served up a victory, while road games usually led to a very decisive defeat.
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In the 2008 loss to the Celtics, Atlanta won its three home games but dropped its four roadies in Boston by a combined total of 101 points, for an average of 25.25 points per loss. Last year against Miami, Atlanta lost Game 2 at home but rebounded to win Game 4 in South Florida. In the other five games between the Hawks and the Heat, the home team won by an aggregate figure of 109 points, for an average of just under 22 points per outing. The math is really clear: The Atlanta Hawks are a terrific home team in the playoffs, and they're very poor on the road.
After three games of this 2010 tilt against coach Scott Skiles' squad from Milwaukee, it's evident that nothing has really changed... at least so far.
Atlanta mopped the floor against the Bucks in Georgia, but as soon as the scene shifted to Wisconsin, the short-handed sixth seed - playing without is money man in the middle, Andrew Bogut - was still able to flourish in a thorough throttling of the Hawks.
The game felt as though it was over after one period. Brandon Jennings and John Salmons - the two deadliest shooters on the floor for Milwaukee - hit 9 of 10 shots in the opening period to carry the Bucks to a 36-19 bulge after just 12 minutes. Atlanta slowly worked its way back into contention and trailed by only nine points early in the third quarter, but the Bucks - behind sensational ball movement in their halfcourt sets and untiring defense which flustered Atlanta's guards - built a 78-57 lead at the end of three quarters. That lead ballooned to 93-65 in the fourth period, and the rout was on. All told, Milwaukee hit 68 percent of its field goal attempts in that tone-setting first quarter, and finished with a 51 percent clip for the entire game.
As is so often the case in a best-of-seven series, Game 4 of a 2-1 series is often the contest that tells the most about each team. Such a scenario usually makes the difference between a decisive five-game win for the favorite and a seven-game slugfest that could go either way. Milwaukee - playing at home - is full of confidence. An Atlanta team that has been terrible on the road in the playoffs (the Hawks are 1-9 in their last 10 postseason roadies) needs to dig deep if it wants to minimize its stress level in the coming week.
ProBasketball-fans.com Senior Staff Writer
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