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NBA Playoffs Bucks Hawks Game 7: Hawks too strong, too good, too much to fear the deer

May 2, 2010, 4:30 PM EDT

Jsmith_Salmons.jpgIn the playoffs, how you advance doesn’t matter, as long as you advance. And while the Milwaukee Bucks have nothing to be ashamed of, putting on a great performance in spite of missing Andrew Bogut, the Hawks will move on to face the Orlando Magic.

Lucky them.

The Hawks defeated the Bucks 95-74 to advance to the second round, in a battle where they simply managed to keep Milwaukee at arm’s length.

Jamal Crawford gets top billing with 22 points, but it was Al Horford and Josh Smith, finally taking advantage of a depleted Bucks frontcourt, who were the reasons for Atlanta’s advancement. Horford created matchup nightmares for the Bucks with no size response to Horford’s guile and agility. Josh Smith (15 points) only collected five rebounds, but when he wasn’t hampered by foul trouble, he attacked consistently, forcing the issue and putting the Bucks on their heels.

But at the end of the day, it was the Hawks’ defense that got the job done, limiting the Bucks to 74 points and 92.5 points per 100 estimated possessions (that’s really good). The Bucks shut off angles and denied penetration, and while Brandon Jennings had his fair share of amazing shots, he also needed 18 shots to score 15 points. The Bucks turned the ball over only 5 times and still only managed 74 points.

A great season for the Bucks, and there’s a lot to look forward to. They have the Bulls’ draft pick, They’ll have Michael Redd’s expiring to deal, Jennings will improve, Bogut should come back healthy, and more time together can only mean good things. But there were just too many things going against them. And the Hawks were the better team.

But the Hawks cannot feel like they’re the better team than the Magic. The Magic dismissed the Bobcats like they were little more than nuisances, while the Hawks are just a game removed from an elimination game on the road versus a six seed without their star. It’s going to take a considerable turnaround for the Hawks to make the Magic series competitive.

But at least they avoided the embarrassing upset.

Gonna miss you, Jennings. See you next year, kid.

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