Luc Locks Up Smith

It won’t be that easy, Atlanta.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and the Milwaukee Bucks struck back against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night with a 107-89 Game 3 victory. The Bucks win cuts Atlanta’s lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series entering tonigt’s pivotal Game 4.

Luc goes for the block against Atlanta’s Al Horford (Getty Images).

No. 12 was an all-around star on Saturday in the Bucks’ first home playoff game in four years, scoring 12 points and putting together an unbelievable defensive effort.

After Josh Smith nearly dropped a triple-double Tuesday night, Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles made the decision to take Luc off Joe Johnson and put him on Smith. The move worked and, with Luc Richard on him, Smith struggled all night from the , shooting just 2-for-12.

Alex Boeder of Brew Hoop agreed that switching Luc Richard’s defensive assignment was the right idea. Smith’s struggles went much deeper than his shooting, said Boeder:

« Luc Mbah a Moute. Scott Skiles said in the pregame presser that he would start by sticking The Prince on Josh Smith and the result was fantastic: None of those game-changing dunks, half as many blocks (1) as Brandon Jennings, as many field goals (2) as Primoz Brezec in 30 more minutes, as many assists (1) as Dan Gadzuric, and not many more reasons to like the city of Milwaukee for Smith, who was boo’d every time he touched the ball.

« It wasn’t all Mbah a Moute, and the The Principal said as much after the game, diplomatically noting the team’s defensive effort. But he was the main guy battling and stifling Smith. And his 12 points on 5-7 shooting weren’t just gravy, they were hugely important. He made the first hoop of the game inside, and all five of his field goals came at the rim—which is just where we want him on the offensive end. »

Defensively, Luc Richard has been drawing the tough assignments all year, but for him it’s just another day at the office. He admits that every team is going to have an all-star caliber player that he’s going to have to take care of, as he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

« There’s no toughest player. Every team has an all-star or somebody who will give you trouble on the defensive end. Obviously you’ve got LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo, all those guys; you can name Joe Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Brandon Roy. Every team has somebody who is really tough. »

For game four, the Bucks will need a carbon copy of their Saturday night performance to keep the Hawks quiet.

Luc believes that in order to even the series and keep the pressure on Atlanta, the Bucks will also have to continue to get more guys involved:

« The ball was moving a little more. That’s our style of basketball. We share the ball. A lot of guys got involved. That paid dividends. »

He admits however, that the pressure has always been on the Hawks.

« We came in as the sixth seed. We’re just trying to make it tough for them so it’s no walk in the park, » Luc said.  « Even right now we have some belief, the way we played last night. If we come out and execute and play the same way, we’ll give ourselves a good chance. »

Game 4 is a pivotal one for the Bucks.

Either they go back to Atlanta with the series tied and will have a chance to return to Milwaukee, or they go down 3-1 with an elimination game looming at Atlanta’s Phillips Arena.

Game 4 tips off at 7:30 CST and you can see all the action on NBA TV.

Hawks grounded in Milwaukee (Brew Hoop, April 24, 2010)
Is a close call coming (MJS, April 25, 2010)
Mbah a Moute again guards opponent’s best (MJS, April 19, 2010)
Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks Recap (ESPN, April 24, 2010)