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Long wait almost over for Hawks, Bucks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jerry Stackhouse expects to get a call from Josh Smith very soon, and the Bucks veteran will tell the emerging 24-year-old power forward just how proud he is.

Stackhouse worked out in the offseason with Smith and the other Hawks in Atlanta while trying to return to game shape. While Stackhouse's career is winding down, he sees the potential in "J-Smoove."

"I'm like a big brother to him and I'm real proud of him from what he's been able to do, how he's grown as player from where he was to the things he's doing for that team to make them who they are right now," Stackhouse said. "He's the key to them, in my opinion. Joe Johnson is Joe Johnson, but if Josh is playing at a real high level, flying around, rebounding the ball, doing all the things he's done, they're pretty tough to beat."

That'll be the Bucks' challenge on Saturday night in Game 3. Milwaukee is in an 0-2 hole in their first-round series with Atlanta and have had three days off to think about it.

It's driven players on both teams a little batty.

Smith started it Thursday by saying that there's nothing to do in Milwaukee, something sure to raise the ire of Bucks fans who haven't seen a home playoff game in four years.

"Who me? I don't worry about that," Smith said Friday. "I just play the game and hopefully we win."

Smith, averaging 16.5 points and 12 rebounds so far in the series, said he'd ask teammates Joe Smith and Zaza Pachulia to give him some tips, since both players are former Bucks.

"They've been there so they know what's crack-a-lackin'. They know what's going down," he said.

Center Al Horford and Joe Johnson both grinned about Josh Smith's comments and the crowd's probable reaction.

"I'm sure they will (be on him). I'm sure they were going to be on him before then. It's going to be even more now for saying stuff like that," Horford said. "And, I think that's fine. It'll be a good test for Josh, and we'll handle it as a team, all together."

This series doesn't have the same sparkle of other first-round matchups and the Bucks are lightly regarded because of the season-ending injuries to center Andrew Bogut. Bucks coach Scott Skiles thought the rather tame opinion by Smith showed just how long three days without a game can be.

"IS there anything to do?" Skiles asked reporters. "Often times guys are asked about the city they're in and nobody ever writes anything unless they say something (derogatory). Nobody writes, 'I like Los Angeles.'"

At least no one was talking about the weather.

"Another day in paradise," said Stackhouse, who bought a winter coat before signing with the Bucks in January after thinking he might join the Hawks. "When it's 55 (degrees), I've got no problems with that. When it's 6, that's when I have a problem."

How else are the teams passing the time?

Horford tried to go to a baseball game in Atlanta, but didn't get there in time.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute spent about 10 minutes after practice Friday trying to perfect a series of shots. He lobbed the ball over the backboard off each letter on the baseline that spells out "Milwaukee Bucks."

Bucks guard Luke Ridnour was trying another game. He attempted to throw a tennis ball off a back wall in the weight room, have it bounce once and land in a cup on a treadmill.

"It's been a tough three days," guard John Salmons said. "Just trying not to overthink things."

At least the Bucks are loose.

Milwaukee has shot 10 of 44 from 3-point range and the Hawks have 19 blocked shots in the first two series, several of them highlight-reel swats.

"They're going to make spectacular plays," Stackhouse said. "We've just got to take the ball out of bounds and try to run our offense."

But if the trends continue, the series will be a short one.

"We have to do whatever it takes to leave Milwaukee with two wins," Johnson said. "We know what to expect. We know we're not going to have the crowd in our favor. We haven't been a great road team, but we haven't been that bad. In the playoffs, it's a lot more difficult."

Skiles says the Bucks need to have their most energetic performance of the season, but acknowledges he's not sure what the three-day layoff will mean.

"When we haven't played and there's been virtually no news, again, no offense to you guys, but I'm answering roughly the same questions," the coach said. "There's nothing else to say or ask. Nothing's happened."

Until Saturday.