Recap: Atlanta Hawks 103, Orlando Magic 93 | Magic Basketball

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Apr 16

Recap: Atlanta Hawks 103, Orlando Magic 93

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

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The Atlanta Hawks were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 103-93 to win Game 1 in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. In one felt swoop, the Hawks were able to win a postseason game on the road and wrestle home-court advantage away from the Magic. The key for Atlanta was getting production from their starters, excluding Jason Collins, and Jamal Crawford. Five players scored in double-figures for the Hawks, including a team-high 25 points from Joe Johnson on 9-of-16 shooting from the field, and each of them were able to take over the game at different junctures. Orlando’s inability to slow down Atlanta offensively in the second and third quarters proved to be their downfall. The Hawks shot 72.7 percent in those periods and turned the ball over just three times, allowing themselves a chance to score on nearly every possession. Atlanta was able to make a number of jumpshots, many of them on open looks, and that was that. On the flipside, the Hawks’ strategy of allowing Dwight Howard to do whatever he wanted on offense worked, as they were able to contain every player on the Magic’s roster not named Howard and Jameer Nelson — another important factor. It’s the reason that Howard played the best game of his career and Orlando lost. Howard was dominant on both ends of the floor, tying a career-high with 46 points and 19 rebounds. Howard set a playoff franchise record by scoring 31 points in the first half and tied another record (with Tracy McGrady in 2003 against the Detroit Pistons) with the most points scored in a postseason game. It was a phenomenal effort by Howard but overlooked because the Magic were unable to come away with a victory. Nelson was also spectacular, starting off slow with one point in the first half but finishing with 27 points and six rebounds while setting a playoff franchise record by scoring the most points in a quarter with 20 in the third. In a lot of ways, it was a strange game for Orlando because their two best players performed to their maximums but the rest of the team faltered. It was a paradox in some ways.

Let’s immediately start with the bad for the Magic.

This series is going to be a problem for Orlando because they don’t matchup well with Atlanta. Plain and simple. For everything that Nelson and Howard provide for the Magic, they are being undermined by their teammates.

Jason Richardson was absent, contributing nothing to the cause and getting picked apart defensively by Johnson. There’s no question that Johnson has an advantage on Richardson with his size and strength. Head coach Stan Van Gundy tried a number of options in hopes of slowing down Johnson, including using J.J. Redick and Quentin Richardson defensively. Johnson was too strong and athletic for Redick. As for Richardson, even though he did a decent job of checking Johnson when he was matched up against him, two costly turnovers in the fourth quarter negatively impacted his contributions on defense.

Hedo Turkoglu was just as bad. Josh Smith is too strong and athletic — there’s a pattern here — for Turkoglu, bullying his way to the basket and doing an excellent job of not solely relying on his jumpshot. Even though Turkoglu’s engagement on defense improved in the final period, there’s no question that he will continue to struggle containing Smith all over the court.

As for Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson, they have no chance against a big man of Al Horford’s caliber. Horford abused Bass and Anderson not only in the low post but on pick and rolls, as his ability to accurately shoot mid-range jumpers killed Orlando time and again. The Magic struggled to rotate properly on Horford as he jumped out between 16-23 feet, knocking down four shots in that range. Bass and Anderson are not entirely to blame for allowing Horford to enjoy plenty of open looks from the perimeter, but they weren’t helping the cause either.

And Crawford had his way too.

If this story sounds familiar for Magic fans, it should, because this is a predicament the Cleveland Cavaliers had to deal with in the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, in which they had the best player on the floor with LeBron James but dealt with mismatches everywhere. The Hawks, right now, have three clear matchup advantages. Johnson, Smith, and Horford can do whatever they want offensively without much troubles. When Crawford is in the game at point guard for Atlanta, he scores but Nelson torches him defensively. Likewise, even though Kirk Hinrich did the best job of containing Nelson, that’s still a matchup in Orlando’s favor when Nelson plays to his capabilities, like he did in the second half.

How can the Magic counter Johnson, Smith, and Horford?

Well, the answer isn’t so simple.

Quentin Richardson is probably the player that’s capable of slowing down Johnson when looking at the wing defenders at Orlando’s disposal. Earl Clark is someone that has a chance at containing Smith or Horford. It is possible that Howard can defend Horford but if he has a weakness defensively, it’s his struggles defending a player that hangs around the perimeter. Plus, in Howard’s case, that draws him away from the paint, making it easier for players like Johnson and Smith to attack the basket. In essence, the Magic have the players to solve some of these problems on defense but there’s caveats involved. If Van Gundy trotted out a lineup with Richardson and Clark, Orlando would struggle to score even though they’d probably improve defensively. Yes, Van Gundy is in a precarious position and part of the series is going to be defined by his ability to find a lineup combination that can slow down Atlanta on offense. The regular season has proven that some of the Magic’s starters aren’t up to the task.

On the flipside, Jason Richardson and Turkoglu need to wake up. It’s true that Van Gundy needed to do a better job of involving Richardson and Turkoglu in the offense but they need to step up themselves. Turkoglu decided to continue his odd pattern of passing up open shots, either creating looks that were more difficult for him or not shooting the basketball at all. As for Richardson, he simply needs to seek out the ball more. It’s imperative that Turkoglu gets involved in way more pick and rolls with Howard, but it’s equally as important for him to come off those picks with a shoot-first mentality. Richardson, on the other hand, needs to have plays called for him where he’s running around staggered screens, that way he can have open looks on the perimeter for jumpshots.

This series is far from over and Van Gundy will make adjustments. The question is whether or not the players, outside of Nelson and Howard, will respond.

For this recap to barely mention Howard’s transcendent performance, in which players like Collins, Zaza Pachulia, Josh Powell, and Etan Thomas submitted to his will, says a lot about everything that went wrong for Orlando in Game 1.

Key sequences in the game killed the Magic. Two, in particular, stand out that were subtle plays but the type of things that aided in the Hawks’ ability of maintaining their lead. At the 10:03 mark in the fourth quarter, Crawford missed a three-pointer and Quentin Richardson got the rebound. Unfortunately for Richardson, he was careless with the basketball and threw it to Gilbert Arenas but Marvin Williams stole it and earned an easy dunk. That play gave Atlanta a 12-point lead and allowed them to keep a distance from Orlando and prevent momentum from being built. The other play was Turkoglu’s mindless turnover with 1:31 left in the game. Hinrich missed a jumper on the other end and Turkoglu got the rebound. However, as Turkoglu dribbled the ball up the court, he made a terrible entry pass instead of taking advantage of a clean look at a three-point shot and turned it over. Of course, Crawford made the Magic pay for the mistake by making a wide open three-pointer in the corner, putting the Hawks up by 11 points and ending the game. It’s doubtful that Orlando would have made a comeback down double-digits with roughly two minutes left in regulation but they shot themselves in the foot with silly turnovers.

The Magic have a chance to redeem themselves on Tuesday.

7 comments
Ferric24
Ferric24

I'm in total agreement with you Billy, I was mad that the Magic seemed to be disengaged defensively because they weren't getting many shots. The Magic should of blown the Hawks out in the second quarter if they played any semblance of defense with the way Dwight Howard was going off. I think the Magic need to realize that it isn't 08 anymore and that they can no longer win with a balanced offensive attack. Dwight has gotten so much better offensively while his teammates have gotten so much worse that it doesn't make sense to try to make a concerted effort to get everyone else involved. In my opinion they need to force feed Dwight Howard the ball the majority of the game. Dwight should hog the ball like the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain, that's the only way the Magic are going to make any noise in the playoffs. The only bright side to this whole debacle is that Howard has seemed to make the metaphorical leap to becoming a legendary center who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Shaq, Hakeem, Moses ect. He just eviscerated everyone who got thrown at him. And even the "Dwight stopper" Collins was helpless to do anything.

Having watch Bass and Anderson get abused by Horford, I've gained a newfound respect for Rashard Lewis. His rebounding may have been suspect for a man of his size but he at least played respectable defense. Something that I can't say for Richardson who's horrible defense is truly befuddling. I just don't understand how someone as athletic as Richardson can be so useless on the defensive end. The Magic's defensive shortcoming due to the trade wouldn't be so bad if they made up for it with a top five Phoenix like offense. What really grinds my gears is that the whole point of the trade was to get better offensively and the Magic have seemed to have gotten worse!

If the Magic lose to the Hawks Smith needs to be fired. I respect him as a man and as a leader but I'm afraid he is a bad GM. Starting with his inexcusable contract to Rashard Lewis several years ago his reign as GM has been plagued with inept personal decisions. Culminating this season with his horrible FA signings and his disastrous mid-season trade. I will confess that I liked the trade at the time, but hindsight being what it is, it's clear the Magic would have been better off standing pat this season. This season might have been a wash but the future would have been much brighter. At the very least the Magic should of kept Rashard instead of trading him for a player with bionic knees with a worse contract. Now the Magic have no cap flexibility, no size outside of Howard, no dept, and seemed destined to lose Richardson this off season and regress. I really can't see how a mid-market level team can continue to justify having one of the league highest payrolls for middling playoff results. Unless Arenas can somehow remove the giant fork from his back I really can't see how the Magic are going to compete in the new hyper-competitive NBA. It's a tragedy that a transcendent talent seemed doomed to either waste the next several years playing for a flawed team or being forced to move on to greener pastures next year to compete for a ring. A tragedy that Otis Smith should answer for.

slickw143
slickw143

Well said, as depressing as it is to agree. I was against the trades from the get-go, but I still hoped against hope that I was just wrong. I still hope that, but it's not looking good.

Being right is not worth the team descending back into mediocrity.

Adolfo
Adolfo

Hi everybody...Yes I'm worried too, I think that Atlanta won today thanks to their strategy, fantastic game plan but:
1. Do you think Atlanta will put those same FG% statistics again?
2. Do you think Bass, Anderson, JRich, Arenas and the rest will have the same pathetic performance again? I mean, they can't be THAT BAD again, right? RIGHT?
Hopefully SVG will figure it out, meanwhile GO MAGIC! By the way I think Arenas played well but C'MON stop those very silly turnovers!

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

Some people will go, “Oh, this shows the Magic can’t win when Dwight is dominating!” Those same people are what I like to call, “idiots”. It's good basketball to have a 60% guy taking the most shots on your team.

The only reason the Magic don’t do well when Dwight is dominating is because no one else on the team that matters (except maybe Jameer and JJ) will do anything else if they’re not getting shots. It’s a cancerous mentality, and it’s one that is a new phenomenon this year. If other guys moved without the ball, or just diverted their energy to playing defense and rebounding when Dwight is on fire (y’know, kinda like how Dwight does every damn possession), we’d be fine. But no, they have to loaf around until they get a pass, and then they’ll fire up the first shot available to them. If that continues, then of course the Magic will struggle when Dwight is putting up big scoring numbers. But the team doesn’t deserve to win if it maintains that mentality.

Yoni
Yoni

While Dwight Howard had an incredible game, finishing with 46 points and 19 rebounds, it continued an ongoing trend for the Magic this season. Orlando is now just 10-13 including the regular season in games in which Howard takes at least 16 shots from the field. When he keeps those attempts to 10 or below, the Magic are 17-3.

-ESPN STATS
... unfortunate as Dwight is our most reliable scoring option at this point, but it's hard to argue with those stats.

Mateus Fregonassi
Mateus Fregonassi

Tonight's game was a defining point for the Magic's future. Tonight Dwight Howard realized he won't be able to win a ring in Orlando.

And we cannot blame him.

Thank you very much, Otis Smith. For lacking patience and screwing with Magic's title chances. In one more season your franchise player will be gone.