Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
Avenging their home loss in Game 1 on Saturday, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Atlanta Hawks by the score of 88-82 to tie the series at 1-1. Defense and the timely contributions of Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson on offense in the fourth quarter, as well as another all-around monster performance from Dwight Howard, were the keys to victory for the Magic. Playing the entire game, Howard finished with 33 points (9-of-12 shooting from the field, 15-of-19 from the free-throw line), 19 rebounds, and two steals. Howard was transcendent on both ends of the floor and there was little the Hawks could do to stop him. Jameer Nelson, battling a migraine throughout the game, contributed with 13 points, eight rebounds, and two steals. Turkoglu and Richardson combined for 18 points on 7-of-28 shooting, but clutch shots from both players down the stretch were able to dispel Atlanta’s comeback attempt. All it took for the role players for Orlando to provide support to Howard for them to come away with the victory.
Unsung heroes like J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson were able to make an impact against the Hawks, even though the box scores for either of them look pretty. During the second quarter, Redick hustled for a loose ball after poking the basketball way from Kirk Hinrich, dove on the court to get it, and made a behind-the-back pass to Nelson for a layup that sparked the crowd at the Amway Center, as well as the Magic as a team. Before the steal, Orlando was down by nine points as Atlanta was able to continue building a lead from the first quarter. But after Redick’s play, in conjunction with a Howard dunk on a 3/5 pick and roll with Turkoglu, forced head coach Larry Drew to call a timeout to stem the tide but it didn’t work. The Magic slowly chipped away at the deficit in the period until they took the lead before halftime.
Redick’s play really was a game-changer. Up to that point, the Hawks were executing their gameplan of single-covering Howard while staying at home on the shooters. And it was clear that Orlando was trying to make a concerted effort to get players like Turkoglu, Richardson, and Brandon Bass offensively. But not much was working in the Magic’s favor at the start, even though Al Horford picked up his second foul at the 9:49 mark in the first quarter and didn’t reappear until the start of the third quarter. Orlando wasn’t quick to take advantage.
In fact, Atlanta was able to take the lead thanks in large part to timely shots.
On one possession, with the shot clock expiring and the Magic doing an excellent job of forcing the Hawks into a tough shot, Joe Johnson was able to bail them out by making a 31-foot three-point shot. On another possession before the first quarter ended, Richardson committed an offensive foul after trying to screen Jamal Crawford in the backcourt to create space for Gilbert Arenas to advance the ball up the court. As such, Atlanta got a chance to take the last shot of the period and just as they drew it up, Crawford was able to make a 28-foot three-pointer right as the buzzer sounded, extending their lead to six points.
Unfortunately for the Magic, that shot seemed to get Crawford into a rhythm because he couldn’t miss at the start of the second quarter. So with Orlando down 10 points and the crowd getting atnsy, Van Gundy called a timeout. The players regrouped and following Redick’s hustle play which injected much-needed energy into the building while simultaneously cutting the Hawks’ lead to five, momentum began to shift in the Magic’s favor.
And Howard led the charge with 20 points in the period, tying Nelson’s record for most points in a quarter during a playoff game (achieved in Game 1).
It didn’t matter if it was Jason Collins, Josh Powell, or Hilton Armstrong, no one from Atlanta was going to stop Howard’s rampage.
[11:22] Howard makes free throw 1 of 2
[11:22] Howard makes free throw 2 of 2
[8:44] Howard makes free throw 2 of 2
[7:41] Howard makes layup
[7:01] Howard dunk
[6:33] Howard makes free throw 1 of 2
[6:33] Howard makes free throw 2 of 2
[5:58] Howard makes layup
[5:20] Howard makes free throw 2 of 2
[3:17] Howard makes 6-foot two point shot
[2:35] Howard makes free throw 1 of 2
[2:35] Howard makes free throw 2 of 2
[2:16] Howard makes free throw 1 of 2
[2:16] Howard makes free throw 2 of 2
[0:02] Howard makes layup
Howard, with the help of his teammates, was able to generate two separate scoring runs of 12-2 and 14-3 in nine minutes to give Orlando the lead, which they never relinquished. There was one sequence during the latter run which epitomized Howard’s impact on offense and defense. The Hawks were trying to score before the end of the first half, but Howard stole the ball from Johnson and raced down the court. Richardson missed the layup in transition, but Howard got the offensive rebound and made the layup. Plays like the one described were routine for Howard for the night, which only begins to describe his dominance
In the second half, Atlanta tried everything to make up the deficit.
After sitting out for most of the first half, it was clear that Drew was going to try everything in his power to get Horford involved offensively. Drew did just that, as he immediately called for Horford to get the basketball on the low block so that he could go to work against Bass. However, even though Bass got beat a few times, he put up a great stand against Horford defensively and held his ground more often than not. Horford is a strong player, no question about it, but Bass’ lower-body strength allowed him to dig in the trenches. Horford tried all that he could to overwhelm Bass, but he couldn’t do it.
Van Gundy even trotted out a lineup of Quentin Richardson, Redick, Turkoglu, Anderson, and Howard to counter the Hawks’ 5-man unit of Crawford, Johnson, Williams, Horford, and Zaza Pachulia. It worked, as the combination went on a 10-1 run to end the third quarter that gave Orlando an 11-point lead punctuated by Turkoglu’s three in a 3/5 pick and roll with Howard.
The Magic’s lead ballooned to 14 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Hawks made a comeback in the period that cut the deficit to two points at 78-76 after Horford dunked the ball in transition. However, like flashes of 2009 when he was nicknamed Mr. Fourth Quarter, Turkoglu was able to come through with a timely layup that almost rimmed out before going in with less than two minutes remaining in the game, which gave Orlando some breathing room to work with. Curiously enough, on a vital possession, Horford got the ball and tried to break down Bass off the dribble before missing the mid-range jumper. On the ensuing possession, the Magic went to the 3/5 pick and roll with Turkoglu and Howard. When Orlando needs a basket, this is the play they go to. To no one’s surprise, the Magic run the pick and roll to perfection, with Turkoglu attacking the basket and kicking it out to Richardson in the corner for a three-point shot.
Richardson, after struggling for the entire evening, made the three, which gave Orlando the lead at 83-76 with 1:07 remaining in regulation.
The key in the Magic’s win was the defense. There were times when Atlanta had their way offensively, especially in the fourth quarter when they made their run. But the third quarter is an example of the type of suffocating defense that Orlando is capable of displaying when everyone is engaged. The Hawks scored 12 points in the period.
Howard will always be there defensively but the veracity by which the Magic defended, particularly on the perimeter was a sight to behold.