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Bucks defense vanishes in start of playoffs
Atlanta Hawks guard Jamal Crawford splits the defense of Milwaukee Bucks forward Carlos Delfino and center Dan Gadzuric during the first half Tuesday in Atlanta. - photo by JOHN AMIS

Hawks vs. Bucks

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Milwaukee

Series: Hawks lead 2-0

TV, radio: ESPN; 1240-AM

Web site:

MILWAUKEE — Even with a 2-0 lead, Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks aren’t eager to travel to Milwaukee.

“I never really did anything in Milwaukee. So I’ll just be happy to find a restaurant,” the Hawks forward said Thursday after practice. “I’m not bashing anybody in the city. But I really never actually did anything in Milwaukee. So I don’t know how to get around or what’s around there.”

“Would you go? Would you go? Would you go up there?” Smith responded when asked if he would vacation in Milwaukee. “Everybody knows there ain’t nothing to do in Milwaukee, man. Everybody knows that.”

That should mean the Hawks will be focused on their three-night trip that begins Friday before Game 3 on Saturday night.
Atlanta certainly was sharp at home, shooting better than 50 percent combined over the first two games with Smith going 15 of 21 from the field.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles said the three-day break in the first round gives his team a chance to correct the mental mistakes and return to the disruptive defensive style that made them one of the best teams down the stretch this season.

Milwaukee allowed 11 dunks and 19 layups in the first two games, making it easy to understand why the Hawks won each by 10 points.

“As athletic as they are, it’s not like anybody’s dunking in a crowd on us. They’re wide open. The balls are going up, and they’re finishing them,” Skiles said. “All we’re comparing ourselves to is ourselves. We normally don’t give that stuff up. We need to not give that easy stuff up.”

One big reason could be the lack of center Andrew Bogut, who is out for the rest of the season with elbow, wrist and hand injuries. Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute says they need to trust each other more without Bogut because the defensive philosophy hasn’t changed.

“Andrew was big, no questions about that,” Mbah a Moute said. “But our principle is so team-oriented, and it’s based on everybody helping each other out. It shouldn’t make us tentative because you should know that somebody else is behind you to help you out.”

The Bucks also have had problems with defensive mismatches on Smith, Al Horford and Joe Johnson.

“You just don’t know who’s going to get you if you come out keying on one guy every night,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “Now, we know everybody tries to stop Joe. But Joe has been unselfish enough over the years that he’s made the other players around him better. That’s the makeup of our ballclub.”

The Bucks are looking to make the trip to Milwaukee uncomfortable.

“We’ve got to try and get some guys out of their comfort zones,” Skiles said. “What I want to see us do is be the most intense team on the floor. So far, Atlanta’s done that. I want to see us do that and then see where we are.”

While Smith spoke after the Bucks talked to reporters, maybe rookie Brandon Jennings could give him some tips on traveling to the blue-collar city that’s stereotyped as being a beer-swillin’ bore despite its robust, cultural festivals in the summer by Lake Michigan.

Jennings, from Los Angeles, often mentions that he likes Milwaukee because it reminds him of the towns in Europe where he played last year as a prep-turned-overseas pro. Mbah a Moute and all the Bucks have made a special point of mentioning that they’re ready to play at the Bradley Center, where they went 19-6 after Jan. 1.

“Playing at home is definitely going to help us a lot,” Mbah a Moute said. “We’ve got to match our crowd’s intensity and come out from the get go and bring that energy.”

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