Crawford, Horford lead Hawks past Bucks 95-74
After keeping their season alive with a gutty win in Milwaukee, the Hawks made sure the Bucks were in no position to duplicate their improbable Game 5 upset. Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, Al Horford put up a double-double and Atlanta pulled away for a 95-74 win Sunday that gave the Hawks a 4-3 triumph in the tougher-than-expected series.
It was the only series to go the distance in the opening round.
The third-seeded Hawks advanced to face No. 2 Orlando in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Magic, who have been resting since wrapping up a sweep of Charlotte last Monday, will host the first two games of the series beginning Tuesday night.
Crawford, appearing in the playoffs for the first time in his 10-year career, looked like a rookie through the first five games of the series. He was at his lowest after a 4-for-18 shooting performance in Game 5, when the Hawks squandered a nine-point lead in the final four minutes to put the Bucks in control of the series.
But Crawford scored 24 points in Game 6, and the Hawks clamped down defensively for an 83-69 win that sent the series back to Atlanta for Game 7.
This one was no contest.
The Hawks led by as many 24 late in the game and got a chance to pull their starters so they could receive a proper ovation from the sellout crowd of 19,241.
"We going to Disney World," the public address announcer screamed as the final seconds ticked off.
Crawford hit 8 of 16 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers. Horford worked hard at both ends of the court, finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Mike Bibby scored 15 points and hit several big shots, including an off-balance, one-handed fling from 20 feet that just beat the shot clock. Josh Smith also had 15 for Atlanta, which won even though star Joe Johnson was held to 8 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
The short-handed Bucks made less than a third of their shots (28 of 86) and simply didn't have enough weapons to cope with an Atlanta team that was into the game. Brandon Jennings led the way with just 15 points, and he needed 18 shots to score that many.
Still, it was a promising season for the Bucks, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 with a promising nucleus of Brandon Jennings, John Salmons and Andrew Bogut.
Milwaukee was essentially undone with less than two weeks to go in the regular season when Bogut tumbled to the court and ripped apart his right arm. He was actually in uniform for the final game, but that was a mere formality — he was done for the year, watching with a large cast on his hand.
The Hawks took over with a 20-3 spurt at the end of the first quarter that carried over to the second.
After Kurt Thomas' jumper gave Milwaukee its final lead at 13-11, Atlanta ripped off nine straight points to close the period. The Hawks kept it up after the break, outscoring the Bucks 11-3 in the first three minutes to stretch the margin to 31-16.
Crawford knocked down back-to-back jumpers — including a 3-pointer from well behind the arc — and Horford sparked the Hawks with his end-to-end hustle. He swatted away a shot by Luc Mbah a Moute, grabbed the loose ball to start a fast break, then ran the length of the court to take a pass from Crawford for an easy basket.
The Hawks had plenty of Game 7 experience, having gone the distance in the opening round each of the last two years. For the second year in a row, they got to play the decisive game on their home court.
The result was the same.
After cruising past Miami 91-78 in last year's Game 7, the Hawks were even more dominant against a Milwaukee team that wasn't expected to do much in the playoffs. In reality, this series was decided Friday night — Atlanta's Game 6 win in Wisconsin.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the Hawks can now hope for a better second-round showing than 2009, when they were swept in four straight games by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
NOTES: Bogut got a chance to dress when G Charlie Bell was ruled inactive for disciplinary reasons. Coach Scott Skiles did not reveal the reason for sitting out Bell, who played only eight minutes in three games during the series. ... Thomas kept up his verbal feud with a fan sitting near the Atlanta bench. Thomas blew a kiss toward the heckling man earlier in the series, and he fired back in Game 7 when the person screamed, "Keep shooting, Kurt!" after he made a jumper. "Oh, I will," Thomas shot back on his way down the court. ... Hawks 12th man Jason Collins got on the court for the first time in the series.