MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks are surprisingly upbeat despite being in an 0-2 hole to the Atlanta Hawks. No one may benefit from the home floor more than Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings.
The 20-year-old rookie says everyone will be ready to correct the mistakes for Game 3 on Saturday night that the Bucks didn't pull off on the way to a 46-36 mark before the postseason. Milwaukee has allowed too many easy baskets, turnovers and offensive rebounds to the athletic Hawks trio of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford.
"If you think about it, we just beat ourselves," said Jennings, who had 34 points in Game 1 but went 3 of 15 from the field for nine points in Game 2.
The franchise hasn't seen the postseason in four years, but the Bucks are on a collision course with a quick exit.
"We're excited to get home," Bucks guard Luke Ridnour said Wednesday. "They took care of their home court, now we get to take care of ours, so it starts here on Saturday and we're excited about the opportunity.
"You win that one on Saturday and it's a whole new series."
Jennings certainly is a different player at home.
He averages nearly five points more per game at the Bradley Center, shoots more than 7 percentage points better and hits 3-pointers at a 42.5 percent clip at home compared to 32.3 percent on the road.
Jennings also is sure to have extra motivation from two days of watching his subpar Game 2 performance where he seemed tentative at times to cut through the Hawks defense. The Bucks have largely been forced to rely on jump shots and 3-pointers since center Andrew Bogut went down with season-ending injuries.
"Before the series, I knew I had to be more aggressive because we're playing without our best player," Jennings said. "(If) I'll go in there and get my shot blocked, hey, I get it blocked."
The Hawks did have 19 blocked shots against Milwaukee over two games, and even that number seemed low. But Bucks coach Scott Skiles wants Jennings to keep working his way into the paint.
"In Game 2 he missed a couple early and that can cause him to be a little less aggressive and in reality, the exact opposite has to happen," Skiles said. "You have to keep going in there and he's made a lot of progress with regard to that. This is just a different level right now.
"There were a lot of clips where you can see his opportunities, but like a lot of us right now, as I said, we haven't taken advantage of our opportunities and we need to do that."
The Hawks didn't talk to reporters on Wednesday, but know that they can benefit just by winning one of two games against Milwaukee.
"We've done our part, and that's take care of home court," Johnson said after Game 2. "Now we have to go up there and steal one, if not two."
Johnson has developed a knack for hitting clutch shots down the stretch and has scored 49 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the first two games. Smith had 21 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, two blocks and two steals in 33 minutes in Game 2 and Horford chipped in 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
With all the big numbers, Jennings said he can't fault the Hawks for thinking they could close the series out quickly.
"They do deserve (a day off), they're up 2-0," Jennings said. "The main thing is don't get too comfortable of anything because we're still going to keep fighting. And, they do have to come to Milwaukee and win a game, too."
Well, not exactly since Atlanta has home-court advantage, but the Hawks are keenly aware of the importance of rest over extra games after last year's playoff demise.
"We got banged up last year in the first round, going seven games. We had a lot of key players hurt going into the Cleveland series," Johnson said. "It would be great if we could handle our business and get a little rest. But we know that Milwaukee's not going to give up."
And the way Ridnour sees it, the series hasn't even started yet.
"It's all about wins and losses, and they got both wins so it's our turn now to try and do the same thing," Ridnour said. "A series doesn't really start, they say, until a road team wins so we've got to come and take care of our home court and try to get back to Atlanta."