In a back-and-forth affair between two familiar foes from the Southeast Division, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Atlanta Hawks by the score of 93-89 to push their winning streak to four games. With 15 seconds left in the game, Vince Carter‘s layup in a 2/5 pick and roll with Dwight Howard sealed the deal for the Magic. Even though Carter missed the ensuing free throw after he was fouled, the bucket put Orlando up by four points at 91-87 and that was all she wrote. Leading the way for the Magic was Howard, who had 27 points and 11 rebounds, continuing his onslaught on offense early in the regular season. Carter finished with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, an efficient performance that was needed from one-half of the starting backcourt since Jameer Nelson sat out with an ankle injury. And the bench for Orlando stepped up huge due to foul trouble for Carter and Howard, as well as lackluster performances from Chris Duhon, Rashard Lewis, and Ryan Anderson – each of them in the starting lineup.
Kudos to Marcin Gortat, J.J. Redick, and Jason Williams for answering the call with excellent hustle and timely buckets in crunch-time.
In the first quarter, the Hawks stormed out of the gates more so because they kept making their jumpshots. Yes, there was some great ball movement that led to some easy buckets for Atlanta offensively but unsurprisingly, that trend fizzled out as the evening progressed. Against the Magic, the Hawks almost always have to rely on their jumpshooting to win because of Howard’s presence in the lane. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they were unable to take advantage of Howard sitting on the bench after he picked up two quick fouls at the 6:52 mark in the period. The Hawks were up by the score of 17-6 when Gortat entered the game.
The lead ballooned to as much as 13 points for Atlanta but from there, Orlando proceeded to go on an 19-2 run that bled into the second quarter.
After that, the Magic and Hawks traded blows until the very end.
Let’s talk about schematics because some of head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s coaching decisions were interesting to say the least. There was good and bad.
The bad? Starting Chris Duhon at the point guard position, as well as assigning Anderson to Al Horford defensively.
Look, Duhon does his job and manages the game but he’s not a threat on offense. Heading into the contest against Atlanta, Duhon’s usage rate was 11.2 percent. That’s extremely low. As such, the Hawks were able to get away with playing Mike Bibby — a defensive sieve — extended minutes because Duhon posed no threat offensively. On Duhon’s lone made basket of the game, Bibby stood a few feet away from him and dared him to shoot. That’s no good.
As for Anderson, Horford got the best of him more often than not when matched up against each other. But why? Atlanta chose to start Jason Collins at center against Howard. Maybe there’s something missing in the equation, but Van Gundy could have easily assigned Howard on Horford in a cross matchup. It’s not like these are two players that haven’t been matched up before. The absences of Nelson and Marvin Williams created some quirky starting lineups but when stripping away the layers, Howard should have guarded Horford as he has in the past.
The good? Playing Williams, Redick, Carter, Lewis, and Howard in crunch-time.
Van Gundy isn’t dumb and he realized that Duhon wasn’t cutting it. When Williams was in the game, he was able to provide a spark with his effort and energy on both sides of the ball. Plus, Williams shot the basketball!
Even though Redick didn’t have a good game by his standards, he at least was able to eat up possessions for the Magic. Aside from Howard and Carter, there was no one else for Orlando that could create their own offense. Redick was able to do that and again, even though he performed inefficiently, he was a threat on the court and someone that the Hawks needed to account for on defense.
Lewis does deserve credit for making a key basket in the latter stages of the fourth quarter but aside from that, he was nowhere to be seen offensively.
But amidst all these observations, the player of the game for the Magic was Gortat. That may seem odd, given that he only had eight points and five rebounds but he had a defining sequence in the first quarter that set the tone the rest of the way.
With 1:19 left in the period, Gortat was able to make a layup in a 2/5 pick and roll with Redick to cut Atlanta’s lead to three points. On the next possession, Pachulia lost the ball as he posted up Gortat on the right block. The basketball bounced off the legs of Pachulia, and Gortat dove several feet across the floor to retrieve the loose ball and handed it off to Redick to spark a fast break. After Redick attempted to draw a foul on his layup attempt, the Hawks got the ball and went out in transition to try to get an easy bucket on the other end. Jeff Teague attacked the basket and tried to pass the basketball at the last second, but Gortat foiled his plans and prevented him from doing so. Gortat spiked the ball and it was heading out-of-bounds, but he pulled a Dennis Rodman and dove after it. One of the players for Atlanta touched the basketball and just like that, Gortat single-handedly stopped a fastbreak and got the ball back in Orlando’s possession. A listless crowd at the Amway Center suddenly got a jolt of energy and gave Gortat a standing ovation for his efforts.
That’s the type of stuff that makes Gortat a valuable commodity.