- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic SF Mickael Pietrus — to no one’s surprise — said after Monday’s practice that he would play tonight in the playoff opener against the Atlanta Hawks. “Yes, I’m playing,” he said. Pietrus sprained his left ankle during Sunday’s practice, walked out of the trainer’s room in a protective boot and said afterward that he “didn’t know” if he could play. He left RDV Sportsplex on Monday, walking to his car in bare feet. Pietrus has misled the media before about the severity of injuries. “I’m like a snake,” Pietrus said, apparently meaning that a snake can still wiggle after its head is cut off.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “[Dwight] Howard averaged 21.0 points, 16.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game against the Hawks during the regular season. He also recorded double-doubles in points and rebounds in 11 of the teams’ last 12 regular-season games; the lone exception came this past January in a blowout Orlando victory in which Howard played less than half the game. Hawks coach Mike Woodson insisted that he won’t make up his mind whether to defend Howard one-on-one or double-team Howard until gameday. Atlanta tried both approaches during the regular season. Woodson likes to double-team Howard when his all-star center Al Horford is in the game, because that tactic helps Horford stay out of foul trouble. Woodson sometimes elects to defend Howard one-on-one, especially when Atlanta backup center Zaza Pachulia is on the floor.”
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The local consensus has long been that Orlando is the one team the Hawks cannot handle, and on the record that has been true. The [Orlando] Magic won six consecutive meetings over the past two seasons; indeed, the Hawks went more than a calendar year — from Oct. 28, 2008 to March 24, 2010 — without beating their Southeast Division cousin. But Orlando is tough on everybody (Cleveland most notably), and if you look hard you’ll see the Hawks have a puncher’s chance. […] My first inclination was to take Magic in six, but something about this matchup leads me to think it’ll go the distance. And where would the weight of expectation in such a Game 7 fall? Not on the Hawks. The Milwaukee series was strange: The Hawks went from too loose to too tight to almost gone. But they made it through, and they see real opportunity in Round 2. So do I. Hawks in seven.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The video and statistical evidence, accumulated by Synergy Sports Technology, seems to support a varied approach. In the four games against the Hawks, Howard attempted to score 34 times on post-ups against Horford. The Hawks sent a second defender before Howard made his move on 10 of those possessions. When Howard was alone vs. Horford, the Magic center scored 16 points on 24 possessions (five field goals and six free throws). Howard turned the ball over four times. That’s excellent defense by Horford, but it’s even better when he gets help. The Hawks forced nine turnovers on those 10 possessions (Howard scored the one time he got off a shot). This goes to explain why Woodson said that, while he’s tempted to let Horford handle Howard on his own, the success of the double team makes him hesitant to try. But sending a second defender can leave the Hawks vulnerable on the perimeter against one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league. That’s a worry for the Hawks, who’ve been inconsistent all season with closing out on shooters.”
Nah, the Hawks are too good of a team to be swept, even with the bevy of mismatches that are in the Magic's favor. Atlanta will steal a game or two, most likely. As for the winner of the Boston/Cleveland series, there's no guarantee Orlando wins that matchup. I think people need to take things one at a time and not think too far ahead. The Magic have a lot of work to do.
It's natural to be nervous. Like I said, the Hawks are too good of a team to be swept. I'm sure Atlanta will be hyped to play. Orlando just needs to be ready.