Bucks stun Hawks, take 3-2 lead

After a Josh Smith jumper, Atlanta led by nine with 4:09 to play, and the Bucks’ chances were looking pretty grim. But Milwaukee went on a 14-0 run over the next three and a half minutes to take a five-point lead. The run was keyed by John Salmons (8 points) and Ersan Ilyasova, who made a couple of key saves that led to a Carlos Delfino three and an inside bucket for Ilyasova.

Also key was Joe Johnson’s sixth foul, which came on a drive to the basket with 2:15 to play. Kurt Thomas, who drew a couple of key fouls in Game 4, stepped in and took the charge, and the play forced the Hawks’ best player out of the game. They tried to go to Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford down the stretch, but they went a combined 0-for-5 in the final two minutes. Throw in the Bucks’ 10-for-12 stretch from the free throw line (including 4-for-4 from Brandon Jennings with under 0:20 to play), and it all adds up to a Milwaukee win.

Jennings led the Bucks with 25-4-3 and is now averaging 20-3-4 in the postseason. Salmons chipped in with 19 points and played excellent defense on Johnson (6-for-16, 13 points) all night. The Bucks have won three straight after Scott Skiles decided to put Salmons on Johnson and let his defensive specialist, Luc Mbah a Moute, cover Josh Smith, who killed Milwaukee in the first two games. Salmons has proven that he’s up to the challenge and it has completely turned this series on its head.

The Bucks now head back to the friendly confines of the Bradley Center on Friday night with a chance to close out the series. I fully expect a raucous Milwaukee crowd.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Who has the “thinnest line” in the NBA?

What is a “thin line,” you ask? Well, I’m not 100% sure I coined it, but it’s my term for a player who scores, but brings almost nothing else — rebounds, assists, steals or blocks — to the table.

In order to determine who has the thinnest line in the NBA, I divided the player’s points by the sum of their rebounds, assists, steals and blocks to come up with the Thin Line Ratio (TLR). The bigger the number, the thinner the line.

To be eligible, a player has to average at least 20 minutes per game. And to be fair to the biggest scorers in the league, if their rebounds, assists, steals and blocks add up to 10+ per game, then they’re not eligible. So players like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Danny Granger and Kobe Bryant are in the clear. I figure any player who is posting 10+ in those four categories is bringing plenty to the table.

So here’s a look at the 10 thinnest lines in the NBA:

1. Kevin Martin (TLR: 2.89)
2. Jamal Crawford (2.79)
3. Marcus Thornton (2.69)
4. Ben Gordon (2.51)
5. Eric Gordon (2.43)
6. Ray Allen (2.43)
7. Jason Terry (2.36)
8. Richard Hamilton (2.33)
9. Corey Maggette (2.31)
10. J.J. Redick (2.28)

Surprise, surprise…that’s a list of nine or ten shooting guards, depending on how you classify Corey Maggette (and maybe Jamal Crawford). These are players whose job it is to shoot the ball and they obviously embrace that role. You won’t see these players battling for rebounds or doing a lot of penetrate and dish.

The top point guard in TLR? Aaron Brooks (2.19), winner of this year’s Most Improved Player award.

The top small forward (other than Maggette)? Josh Howard (2.12)

The top power forward? Bill Walker (2.14), but he played in just 35 games. Al Harrington (2.12) was the next highest PF on the list.

The top center? Andrea Bargnani (1.91), but is he really a center? The next highest eligible center is Channing Frye (1.33).

Who has the thickest line (i.e. the lowest TLR)?

PG – Jason Kidd (0.61)
SG – Thabo Sefolosha (0.72)
SF – Luc Mbah a Moute (0.78)
PF – Jared Jeffries (0.71)
C – Marcus Camby (0.43)

Jason Kidd plus four defensive specialists. Boy, that would be some ugly offense, but they’d be a bitch to score on.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Jamal Crawford hits buzzer-beater against the Suns [video]

I caught this live and it was pretty exciting…

Line of the Night (1/11): Joe Johnson

The Hawks beat the shorthanded Celtics, 102-96, in Boston, and are now 3-0 against the C’s this season. Johnson hit 14 of 25 shots (including 5 of 7 threes) to score 36 points. He had a rather thin line, with just three rebounds and one assist, but the Hawks needed him to score last night, and that’s what he did.

Another interesting thing to note about the Hawks is that Jamal Crawford is getting a ton of minutes at point guard at Mike Bibby’s expense. In six January games, Bibby is averaging just 25 minutes per game to Crawford’s 29. More importantly, in crunch time against the Celtics, the Hawks went with Crawford, not Bibby. At this point in Bibby’s career, Crawford is simply better able to get his own shot. He’s not a much of a distributor, though he’s capable of hitting the open guy when he doesn’t have a shot (which doesn’t happen very often).

Jamal Crawford heading to Atlanta?

Marc Stein’s sources say that he is.

NBA front-office sources say that the Warriors and Hawks will soon complete a deal sending Crawford to Atlanta for Acie Law and Speedy Claxton.

Warriors coach Don Nelson made no secret of the fact that Crawford wasn’t in his future plans. By shedding Crawford’s longer contract and by virtue of insurance payments that will cover some of the costs of Claxton, Golden State would secure a decent measure of payroll relief with the trade.

Crawford is definitely a shoot-first point guard, as evidenced by this study I did a few weeks ago, though I think he’s better suited to playing off the ball. His shot selection is suspect (career 40.4% from the field), but he is a prolific scorer. In fact, he has averaged at least 17 points in each of the last four seasons, but he regularly takes 15-17 shots per game. Is it possible to get him to rein in his attempts and be a little more selective in his attempts? I’d rather he average 14-15 points on 10-11 shots.

How does this affect Mike Bibby’s contract negotiations? Acie Law wasn’t working out, but now that Crawford is on the roster, the Hawks have a backup plan in case Bibby’s expectations are too high. Bibby takes better care of the ball, but he’s a shoot-first point guard as well, so a reined-in Crawford wouldn’t be that much different.

Crawford’s contract runs another two years at the tune of $19 million, so while the fiscal impact for the Hawks in the short term is minor, they are giving up about $10 million in projected cap space in 2010 by making this trade.

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