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To annihilate is to destroy completely.
In Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Orlando Magic showcased what ‘annihilate’ means as they were able to defeat the Atlanta Hawks by the score of 114-71. This was, quite simply, a savage beating. Two players for the Magic influenced the destruction — Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. Finally waking up from his slumber in the postseason, Howard led the way for Orlando with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks. Nelson had 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, wreaking havoc against Atlanta’s defense. Vince Carter chipped in with 20 points and six rebounds. There should be no surprise that the Magic were able to play well with extended time off, by the way. With the win, Orlando is 6-0 this year when playing on three days rest or more.
Where to start?
Things were competitive between the Magic and the Hawks in the first quarter and there’s one main reason why. Atlanta was able to get out in transition to score easy buckets whenever possible. That’s it. Aside from a few put-backs, most of the Hawks’ points in the period were either layups or dunks. Josh Smith led the way, in that regard, and showed why he’s “J-Smoove” as he scored 10 points in rather spectacular fashion. But from the second quarter on, Orlando’s defense clamped down, limited fast break opportunities, and as such … well, you know. The well ran dry very quickly for Atlanta on offense, let’s put it that way.
The Hawks, for the most part, settled for contested jumpers, operated out of isolations sets, and exacerbated the issue with little to no ball movement. For the majority of the evening, Atlanta was showing a nationally-televised audience how not to execute offensively. In the rare instances that the Hawks decided to attack the basket, Howard was there to meet them at the rim and either alter or block their shots. From an execution standpoint, and certainly this will please head coach Stan Van Gundy more than anything else, the Magic did everything that they normally set out to accomplish defensively. Even so, Atlanta aided the cause by voluntarily taking long two-point shots, staying away from the paint, and avoiding trips to the free-throw line.
[10:52] Howard blocks Williams’ layup
[9:26] Howard blocks Pachulia’s 18-foot jumpshot
[8:44] Horford misses 17-foot jumpshot
[6:58] Howard blocks Smith’s layup
[6:00] Bibby misses 25-foot three-point jumpshot
[5:54] Smith misses layup
[5:24] Horford misses dunk
[3:49] Crawford misses 23-foot jumpshot
[3:15] Johnson misses 16-foot jumpshot
[2:32] Crawford misses 17-foot jumpshot
[0:51] Horford misses hook shot
[0:34] Bibby misses 24-foot three-point jumpshot
[0:05] Crawford misses 14-foot jumpshot
Notice a pattern?
On the flip-side, Orlando executed beautifully on offense.
In the second and third quarters when the Magic opened up the floodgates against the Hawks, Howard was at the epicenter of the surge. Howard was involved in a number of 4-out/1-in offensive sets and 1/5 pick and rolls with Nelson. As a result, Howard was able to systematically break down Atlanta by passing and scoring with the basketball. In essence, Howard was being the playmaker that he didn’t get a chance to be when he played against the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the playoffs. Whether it was overpowering his defender on the low block or kicking the ball out to the perimeter, where Orlando’s shooters were able to cause a lot of damage, Howard was making plays left and right.
If this pattern continues for the Magic, this series is going to be over in a hurry.