ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks are
off to a good start in the playoffs, even though they barely showed up
for the second half. The Milwaukee Bucks are short-handed but at least
showed a little fight.
Led by Joe Johnson and getting
production from all their key players, the Hawks blitzed the Bucks
early, survived a lackluster showing after halftime and held off
Milwaukee 102-92 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series Saturday.
The Hawks had mismatches all over the
court, taking advantage of the gruesome injury that took out Milwaukee
center Andrew Bogut late in the season. The home team never trailed,
building a 20-point lead in the first quarter and going to halftime with
a 62-40 edge.
The Bucks made a game of it led by
Brandon Jennings, who scored 34 points in his playoff debut. But the
rookie didn't have nearly enough help against the No. 3-seeded Hawks,
making their third straight playoff appearance and hoping to break up
the expected Cleveland-Orlando duel in the Eastern Conference.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is
Tuesday night in Atlanta.
Milwaukee was making its first playoff
appearance since 2006, and that inexperience showed even though
Jennings tried to take matters into his own hands. He took 25 shots,
making 14 of them, and accounted for more than third of his team's
That kind of formula doesn't figure to
work against the Hawks, who have a balanced lineup and perhaps the best
sixth man in the league, Jamal Crawford. Johnson scored 22 points, Mike
Bibby added 19 and the other Atlanta starters also were in double
figures. Crawford put up 17 points in the first postseason appearance of
his 10-year career.
By comparison, only two other
Milwaukee players joined Jennings with double-digit scoring.
Even though Crawford looked a bit
nervous after waiting so long to experience the playoffs, he hit three
big shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Hawks played a nearly perfect
first quarter, while Milwaukee looked shell-shocked. Atlanta made 15-of-23 shots, controlled the boards, blocked three shots and didn't commit a
turnover. The Bucks went 7-of-21 from the field, turned it over four
times and appeared totally incapable of stopping Atlanta's myriad
Al Horford and Josh Smith both scored
eight points in the opening period, and the Hawks made it 32-12 on
Crawford's free throw in the final minute of the quarter before settling
for a 34-17 lead.
The Bucks made a game of it in the
second half, taking advantage of the sleepwalking Hawks to cut the gap
to 77-70 late in the third — the closest Milwaukee had been since the
opening minutes. But Bibby hit a big 3-pointer from the corner and
Atlanta took an 81-70 lead to the final quarter.
Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova both had
3-point attempts that could have cut it to five points late in the game,
but neither connected. The Hawks iced it from there as Johnson hit a
big jumper with Luc Mbah a Moute right in his face.
The Bucks knew the odds were against
them. They lost Michael Redd in January to a knee injury, but the
biggest blow came with less than two weeks to go in the regular season
when Bogut wrenched his right arm in a gruesome tumble to the court,
finishing him for the season.
With Bogut out, Jennings was
basically a one-man team. He had 20 of Milwaukee's 40 points in the
first half, and reached 30 points with more than six minutes left in the
third quarter — before any of his teammates had even reached double
The lightning-quick rookie was the
one player who caused matchup problems for the Hawks, easily beating his
man off the dribble no matter who the Hawks threw at him — everyone
from 6-foot-2 rookie Jeff Teague to 6-foot-10 center Al Horford.
Atlanta's 34-point opening
quarter was third-highest for the playoffs in franchise history. The
62-point first half was the sixth-best. … The Hawks won their 13th
straight home game. … The crowd was announced as a sellout of 18,729,
though there appeared to be plenty of empty seats and tickets were going
for less than a buck online shortly before tipoff.
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