The Atlanta Hawks dominated the Milwaukee Bucks 95–74 in their first round Game 7 showdown in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.
It was the only first round series to go to Game 7, and no one thought the Bucks would make it this far without their anchor in the paint Andrew Bogut.
The 7-foot Australian dislocated his right elbow from a hard fall against the Phoenix Suns on April 3.
Bogut’s absence was probably no where missed more than in Game 7 at Phillips Arena where the Hawks pulled down 16 offensive rebounds that led to 22 points.
“Yes, we missed his presence in the paint,” said Bucks guard Carlos Delfino. “But glory to the guys who kept fighting. We just tried to be as positive as we possibly could.”
Hawks big man Al Horford owned the inside on both ends of the floor, shooting 6–8 in field goals, scoring 16 points, and tying a career playoff high with 15 rebounds.
Horford was given a huge cheer from the sellout crowd of 19,241 when the reserve players were rotated in during the final minutes.
“All we had to do was help each other,” Hawks forward Josh Smith—who finished the night with 15 points—told ESPN after the game. “For the past two games guys were getting caught up in screens and wouldn’t ask for help.”
“Our perimeters did a great job at keeping guys in front of them. And we did a great job at boxing out and keeping them to one shot, and going out and having fun on the fast break.”
With Horford taking care of the inside the Hawks relied on sixth man of the year Jamal Crawford on the outside.
Crawford led the game in scoring with 22 points. It was his first playoff appearance in his 10-year career.
“I just had to be aggressive. I had to play like it was Game 3,” Crawford said in regards to Milwaukee’s 28-point blowout against Atlanta in Milwaukee on April 24.
Crawford’s offensive performance was huge for Atlanta because their star guard Joe Johnson was way off, shooting 4–14 for 8 points despite 40 minutes of play.
Milwaukee took a brief lead midway through the first quarter but the Hawks took control of the rest of the half bringing their lead up by as much as 20 points and closing the half 53–40.
The Bucks pulled their offense together in the third quarter that saw even scoring by both teams. But Atlanta surged ahead in the fourth to lead by as much as 24 points.
Milwaukee was carried by rookie guard Brandon Jennings—the youngest NBA player to start every game in a seven-game series at 20 years old.
Jennings has had a great series and led the Bucks on Sunday with 15 points.
Bucks forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Richard Mbah a Moute contributed 13 points each. Ilyasova grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Hawks now move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Orlando Magic while LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics have already begun the East’s other battle with Cleveland up 1–0.
The Magic won the regular season series against the Hawks 3–1, with the Hawks scraping by with an 86–84 win in their last matchup in March.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Crawford said. Indeed, the Hawks will be hard-pressed to handle Orlando’s inside-outside game with Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson.
“We can’t just beat this team based on talent. We’ve got to play harder,” Hawks star Joe Johnson said.
Lakers Defeat Jazz
The Los Angeles Lakers came away with a hard fought 104–99 win against the Utah Jazz in their Western Conference semifinal opener in Los Angeles, on Sunday.
The game was close throughout but the Lakers went on a 15–6 run in the final four minutes to take the lead and pull away.
The Lakers were led by veteran Kobe Byrant with 31 points and the big Spaniard Pau Gasol with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
Utah had a more balanced team scoring performance with five players breaking 10 points. Deron Williams led the Jazz with 25 points and 8 assists and Carlos Boozer had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.