MILWAUKEE — John Salmons scored 22
points on 9-of-11 shooting and the Milwaukee Bucks never let up after a
hot start in a 107-89 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.
The Bucks shot 68 percent in the
first quarter and 51 percent for the game following a three-day layoff
and were never seriously threatened after building a 19-point,
Atlanta still leads the series 2-1
after two double-digit victories at home, when the Bucks looked
overmatched without the injured Andrew Bogut.
But veteran Kurt Thomas had eight
points and 13 rebounds, rookie Brandon Jennings added 13
points and Milwaukee proved that the Hawks may have to "Fear the Deer"
Joe Johnson scored 25 for Atlanta. Game 4 is Monday night in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee led by as many as 28 in the
fourth as the Hawks shot 39 percent for the game, and only once did
Atlanta appear poised to make a run.
The Hawks cut the lead to nine early in the third quarter, but Jennings and the Bucks turned up the pressure.
Jennings sent a soft pass to Luc
Richard Mbah a Moute in the lane and Mbah a Moute's layup spun around
the rim twice before falling in as the rookie point guard twisted his
body 25 feet away in an effort to make the ball fall.
Moments later, Carlos Delfino hit his
second straight 3-pointer to make it 64-47 after starting Game 3 by
missing his first five shots. Salmons, who also had seven assists,
followed with a spinning five-footer in the lane.
Jennings then whipped the crowd into
a frenzy late in the quarter, stripping Mike Bibby and sending a
behind-the-back bounce pass to Jerry Stackhouse for a dunk as Milwaukee
took a 78-57 lead into the fourth.
While the Hawks may boast the
"Highlight Factory" at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Milwaukee went buck
wild back home in the Bradley Center after spending three days brooding
over the tapes of the embarrassing road losses.
The Bucks found their mark from 3-point range, hitting 10-of-23 after going 10-of-44 in the first two games.
Jennings, who had nine points in
Game 2, made three 3s and scored 11 points in the first quarter.
Salmons hit all five of his first-quarter attempts and added 11 as
Milwaukee built a 31-13 advantage and led 36-19 after the period.
Josh Smith, who mentioned there was
"nothing to do" in Milwaukee earlier this week, was mostly quiet with
seven points and 12 rebounds. He fell late in the first half and
appeared to be limping slightly the rest of the game. Center Al Horford
had 10 points but only three rebounds in 30 minutes.
Thomas, a 15-year veteran, went in
for stitches early in the second quarter after taking an inadvertent
shot to the chin and missed 4 1/2 minutes of game action, but even
lightly used Dan Gadzuric had 10 rebounds in 17 minutes for Milwaukee.
Bucks owner and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl
watched the team's first home postseason game in four years in his
customary seat just behind center court, and Milwaukee hit 12 of its
first 15 shots to start the game.
He and the rest of the Bucks can
only wonder how far they might go in the postseason with a healthy
Bogut. Bogut doled out left-handed high fives from the bench with his
right arm still in a large cast from the elbow down after breaking his
right hand, spraining his wrist and dislocating his elbow in an ugly
fall three weeks ago.
Milwaukee is 12-16 at the
Bradley Center all-time in the playoffs. … Bucks GM John Hammond was
named the NBA executive of the year earlier Saturday after Milwaukee
won 12 more games than the previous year to go 46-36, the most since
2000-01. … Smith said he planned to venture out in Milwaukee on
Sunday after spending Friday night in the hotel.
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