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Hawks too cocky?
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MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings doesn’t exactly lack self-confidence, so he knows cockiness when he sees it.

And the rookie guard thinks the Atlanta Hawks came into Game 3 in Milwaukee expecting to blow out the Bucks.

Instead, Milwaukee gave its heavily favored first-round playoff rivals something to think about: a 107-89 drubbing Saturday that cut Atlanta’s series lead to 2-1. The Bucks now have a chance to even the series at home in Monday’s Game 4 before heading back to Atlanta.

“I felt like they were a little bit cocky,” Jennings said Sunday. “They came in like, ‘OK, it’s Milwaukee, we’re up 2-0.’ I mean, that’s just how I felt. I felt like they thought they were just going to come in and just blow us out. I think with the crowd, and the way we came out, it just changed everything.”

Fueled by a raucous home crowd, the Bucks used hot shooting and good defense to take a commanding 36-19 lead in the first quarter. The Hawks never really recovered.

Hawks players expected the Bucks to come out with extra energy at home, but only to a point.

“Yeah — not THAT hot,” Jamal Crawford said. “That’s tough to prepare for. You know they’re going to come out and play their best game. Their backs were against the wall. They lose that game, they’re down 3-0.”

Hawks coach Mike Woodson said his team needs to learn how to deal with adversity, especially on the road.

“It’s unacceptable the way we stepped on the floor last night,” Woodson said. “And me being the head coach, I’ve got to take responsibility (for) that. And I wasn’t real happy in film session this morning because it was embarrassing.”

It was a continuation of recent road woes for the Hawks, who were 19-22 on the road in the regular season and have only one road win in the playoffs going back to the 2007-08 season.

“I still think we’re a team that’s still learning how to win, like all teams in this league,” Woodson said. “It’s not easy winning on the road, and I never use that as an excuse, but that’s reality.”

From a defensive perspective, Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles said he didn’t really recognize the team that was beaten thoroughly in the first two games of the series. He saw something more familiar from his players in Game 3.

The Bucks probably can’t be expected to play defense as consistently as they did in the regular season. Not with their last line of defense, center Andrew Bogut, sidelined for the rest of the season because of injuries.

But after allowing the Hawks to shoot 50.6 percent from the floor through the first two games, Milwaukee held the Hawks to 39.1 percent shooting Saturday.

“I don’t know that we can expect that again, because both things happened: We had a very good defensive game, and then they also missed some shots they’ve been making,” Skiles said. “We just have to stay concerned about our defensive game, bring the same type of intensity and energy and get after them as best we can. And if they hit tough shots, they hit tough shots.”

Atlanta’s Josh Smith shot 71 percent from the floor in the first two games of the series and was one assist away from a triple-double in Game 2. The Bucks gave defensive stopper Luc Richard Mbah a Moute primary responsibility for Smith on Saturday, and he was held to seven points on 2-for-12 shooting — although he still grabbed 12 rebounds.

Mbah a Moute wasn’t taking credit for Smith’s off night, saying he got plenty of defensive help from the Bucks’ perimeter players.
“He’s so good that you have to come down and help,” Mbah a Moute said.

Joe Johnson, meanwhile, continued to pile up points against Milwaukee’s defense. The Bucks are OK with that, as long as they can contain Smith and the rest of Johnson’s supporting cast.

“Joe’s going to get his points,” Milwaukee’s John Salmons said. “We haven’t had an answer for him yet. I think Luc really did a good job on Josh. Hopefully he can continue to do that.”

If he can, it will go a long way toward helping the Bucks even the series.

“We come out here and win Monday, hey, the series is going to be very interesting,” Jennings said.
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