Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Two playoff series. Two sweeps.
The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Atlanta Hawks by the score of 98-84 and as a result, set a record for making the series the most lopsided in NBA playoff history by outscoring the Hawks by 101 points in four games. Oh, and the Magic advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for a second consecutive season. Orlando will await the winner of the series between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Magic were led by their four All-Stars, like in Game 2. Jameer Nelson had 16 points and nine assists, Rashard Lewis had 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists, Dwight Howard had 13 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks, and Vince Carter had 22 points on 12 shots. Mickael Pietrus chipped in with 12 points off the bench.
There isn’t much to say about this game that hasn’t already been said. Game 4 was a repeat of the first three games, in the sense that Orlando won by a comfortable margin. But the major difference was that the Hawks fought valiantly, most notably in the second and third quarters, after getting hit in the mouth in the first quarter by the Magic. Atlanta fought hard and really brought the requisite effort and energy needed to win the game. The caveat, however, was that the Hawks didn’t do it for 48 minutes. As such, Orlando has their second consecutive sweep in the playoffs.
What did the Magic do?
Orlando ran a straight-up clinic on offense in the first quarter. It was a “drive-and-kick, cut to the basket, ball movement” exhibition. Many times, but not always, the Magic would engage their offense by running a number of 1/5 pick and rolls with Nelson and Howard. Sometimes Nelson would dribble penetrate into the lane and kick the ball out to the perimeter, where someone like Lewis would have the option of putting a shot up or moving the basketball around the perimeter and forcing Atlanta’s defense to react and rotate accordingly. Other times Nelson would look for his own shot and score — usually. In the period, Nelson had 10 points and five assists, setting the tone for Orlando early with his aggressiveness.
As has been mentioned before, the Hawks did fight back in the middle quarters of the game. But part of that was because the Magic seemed to let down their guard a little bit, thinking that their opponent was going to roll over after starting out strong in the first quarter and leading by 11 points. And to be honest, it’s not hard to blame Orlando for that mindset. Atlanta has shown, in previous games, a propensity to give up at the first sign of trouble but that wasn’t the case tonight. The Hawks mustered up pride, played good defense, and got themselves back into the game by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. With 12 minutes left in their season, Atlanta faced a deficit of nine. That’d be the closest the Hawks would get.
The Magic did what all aspiring championship teams should do … close the series out and go in for the kill. Orlando’s weapon of choice in the final period would be the three-pointer. It’s quick and efficient, of course.
[11:21] Lewis, 25-foot three-point shot (Howard assist)
[7:24] Williams, 25-foot three-point shot
[6:39] Lewis, 26-foot three-point shot (Williams assist)
[4:34] Williams, 27-foot three-point shot
[2:11] Pietrus, 25-foot three-point shot (Williams assist)
The Magic attempted 11 threes, made five of them, and that was the ball game.
Certainly it was a disappointing end for the Hawks and there will be a myriad of questions surrounding the futures of Joe Johnson and head coach Mike Woodson, but this series shouldn’t detract the success they had this year.
As for Orlando, they will have time to rest and prepare for perhaps the most highly-anticipated Eastern Conference Finals appearance in franchise history. There’s still plenty of work to do, but the Magic are halfway there to achieving their goal. A championship.