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In a game that was rather uneventful from the opening tip, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Atlanta Hawks by the score of 105-75 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Magic were led by an excellent performance from Rashard Lewis, who had 22 points and five rebounds. Dwight Howard finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Jameer Nelson and Matt Barnes chipped in with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Jamal Crawford led the way for the Hawks, with 22 points.
First of all, let’s go back to the closing moments of the third quarter in Game 2. For those that don’t remember, Crawford makes a ridiculous, rainbow three-pointer to briefly give the Hawks a two-point lead at 84-82. There’s only a few seconds left remaining in the period and it looks like, for the moment, Atlanta will be heading to the fourth quarter with a lead on the road in a game that they have to have if they want any chance at winning the series. Unfortunately for the Hawks, on the ensuing play, Nelson sprints down the court and is able to bank-in a three-point shot at the buzzer to retake the lead for the Magic. For Atlanta, it was a damaging blow to their psyche and the events of Game 3 merely confirmed that fact. The Hawks, to be frank, looked like a defeated team in tonight’s game and it’s not too outlandish to point back to the aforementioned sequence of events in Game 2 to explain this phenomenon.
In the first quarter, Orlando ran a number of 4-out/1-in offensive sets for Howard and Atlanta’s response defensively was to send double-teams. Perhaps this was a reaction to Howard having his way on offense in the first quarter in Game 3. Well, whatever the case may be, it was a bad choice for the Hawks. Howard showed tremendous patience in the post and kicked the basketball out to the perimeter on almost everyone possession. And just like Game 1, the shooters for the Magic had a field day. Even if Orlando missed shots, which they did, there were open looks to be had. Howard did get into foul trouble late in the period, which did throw a wrench into the synergy that was being showcased on offense, but Marcin Gortat was able to fill-in admirably.
Even in Howard’s absence for the early portions of the second quarter, the Magic didn’t miss a beat offensively. This was a testament to Gortat’s energy, which was fantastic, as he was able to keep possessions alive for Orlando by grabbing a few offensive rebounds. For example, on two different instances in the period, Gortat was able to snag an offensive rebound, which resulted in threes for Nelson and Lewis. These are the type of plays that demoralize an opponent, as they did to an already demoralized Atlanta team. When Howard checked back in the game, the Magic returned to their inside-out attack. It didn’t result in a lot of points for Howard but it did open things up for other players to score, like Mickael Pietrus.
In contrast, the Hawks didn’t do much of anything the entire night. Joe Johnson’s alter-ego “Iso-Joe” reared his ugly head, missing jumper after jumper and agitating the home crowd with his poor shot selection — this is the player you want to reward with a max contract in free agency this off-season? For a third consecutive game, there was very little ball movement from Atlanta. There would be a pass here and there but it would leave, inevitably, to the Hawks clanking long two’s off the rim. If you didn’t know already, that’s the most inefficient shot to attempt. Amidst the rubble, Crawford deserves credit for giving a crap and making some shots but he was one of the few players for Atlanta that seemed to care their playoff lives were at stake.
Honestly, there isn’t much else to say about a series that’s been very one-sided.
The Magic, if anything, played like the team that was down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There was a sense of urgency from Orlando for 48 minutes and it wasn’t too hard to tell by how they played. The ball movement was crisp on offense, the execution was great on both ends of the court, and the Magic played like a team dead-set on going in for the killshot. All the credit needs to be directed at head coach Stan Van Gundy because he has his players prepared and keeps them grounded despite the success they’ve had so far. Very rarely will Orlando’s focus waver at the task at hand. This was evident in the first round against the Charlotte Bobcats when the Magic finished things off on the road and it’s evident now against the Hawks.
Orlando is primed for a second consecutive sweep in the postseason and the reason why they’re in this position right now is very simple.
The Magic have executed to near perfection.