Recap: Atlanta Hawks 88, Orlando Magic 85 | Magic Basketball

«

»

Apr 24

Recap: Atlanta Hawks 88, Orlando Magic 85

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

The Atlanta Hawks were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 88-85 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The Hawks are one win away from ending the Magic’s season, and exacting revenge from last year’s sweep in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. Four free-throws from Joe Johnson helped seal the deal for Atlanta, as they helped to stave off Orlando from coming back and stealing Game 4 on the road. With 10.5 seconds left in regulation and the Magic trailing by three points, the basketball was put in Hedo Turkoglu‘s hands but he was unable to deliver with a game-tying shot to extend the game into overtime. It was a scenario in which Orlando sorely missed Jason Richardson, given that he’s been able to come through in crunch-time situations time and again. The Hawks were led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Jamal Crawford finished with 25 points and six assists, continuing his onslaught in the series as Atlanta’s sixth man. Johnson had 20 points and nine rebounds. Al Horford chipped in with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists, while Kirk Hinrich contributed with 14 points. Dwight Howard had another dominant game, finishing with 29 points, 17 rebounds, and two blocks but a lack of support from his teammates has been the Magic’s downfall. Gilbert Arenas redeemed himself after poor performances in Games 1 and 2, as well as a no-show in Game 3, by putting up 20 points and five rebounds, giving Orlando a much-needed boost on offense even though it was in vain.

This isn’t even about the Magic’s loss against the Hawks.

This isn’t even about this season.

This is about the rise and fall of Orlando.

It’s clear, now more than ever, that 2009 was the Magic’s best opportunity at winning a championship. In the postseason that year, everything lined up perfectly for Orlando and they took advantage until the very end. Turkoglu’s game-winning shot in Game 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, arguably, bought the Magic another life in a series they were close to losing. And, of course, with Kevin Garnett injured for the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, Rashard Lewis was able to have a field day against Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine. That matchup tipped the scales ever so slightly in Orlando’s favor and they were able to survive a grueling series that they would lose one year later with Garnett’s return. The Magic polished off a favorable road to the Finals by matching up perfectly against the Cleveland Cavaliers and winning the series in six games, despite a superhuman performance from LeBron James. Then the NBA Finals arrived with the Los Angeles Lakers en tow.

Even taking into account Jameer Nelson‘s injury or his premature return to the rotation, two plays defined Orlando’s postseason. If Courtney Lee is able to convert on a game-winning layup attempt in Game 2 and Derek Fisher misses his game-tying three-point attempt in Game 4, the Magic would have had a commanding 3-1 series lead against the Lakers with a chance to win the title at home in Game 5. It’s plays like those that alter history one way or the other.

Again, this isn’t even conjuring up the possibility of Nelson playing at full-strength for Orlando in the playoffs, especially against Los Angeles — a team he tortured during the regular season. Despite Nelson’s absence, the Magic could be staring at the Larry O’Brien trophy sitting somewhere in the practice facility at the Amway Center right now. But of course, Lee didn’t make his layup, Fisher did make his three-pointer, and Orlando is left with a bevy of ‘what if’ scenarios.

Also, those plays affected the Magic’s future because general manager Otis Smith, embolden by the Finals run and getting a thumbs up from ownership to spend, did everything he could to get the franchise back at that plateau. Instead of standing pat, especially if Orlando did win the title, Smith went all-in by acquiring Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson, re-signing Marcin Gortat, and signing Brandon Bass, Matt Barnes, and Jason Williams in free agency. Smith was lauded for his aggressiveness in the offseason and the Magic entered 2010 with a loaded roster out to claim their standing as champions. Didn’t happen, of course.

Although Orlando in 2010 was far more talented than their 2009 counterparts, they encountered a team that matched up perfectly with them — the Celtics — in the playoffs, and lost.

So here we are.

Smith, doing everything in his power to hit it big and return the Magic to their rightful standing as an elite team and championship contender, has done nothing more than dismantle a franchise.

As Howard has progressed as a player, becoming a transcendent force on both ends of the floor that everyone envisioned him of being, his supporting cast has gotten worse and there’s not much he can do. Smith gambled that Turkoglu, Richardson, and Arenas would be difference-makers, that Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon would be contributors, that Orlando didn’t need a back-up center with Howard’s presence, and he lost with every roll of the dice he took. It’s fitting that the Hawks will likely be the ones to put one of the final nails in the coffin, because they represent how far the Magic have fallen in a year.

Last year, Orlando destroyed Atlanta in the postseason. But due to roster shuffling that has weakened the Magic considerably, they’re on the verge of losing to the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. It’s a shame that head coach Stan Van Gundy is trying to do everything in his power to prevent the ship from sinking, but it might be too late.

Go figure.

Looking back on it now, two plays changed the course of history for Orlando and the end-game is nearly here.

Only a miracle can stop from the seemingly inevitable from occurring — Howard’s departure from the Magic and the final nail in the coffin.

There’s time to fix everything, but time is running out.

10 comments
Carlo Simone
Carlo Simone

Honestly, I think there is a sound logic to just about every move Otis has made. It just didn't work out for him.

Question for Eddy. Do you think we should've used this year as a salary dump year to try and rebuild next year one more time to keep Dwight?

Gomezd
Gomezd

Good but sad article. I agree the Hawks are a perfect bar to see just how much the magic have fallen just in one season, seeing how the hawks are basically the SAME team as last year, from one year magic went from sweeping to possibly losing 4-1 incredible and getting Turk back is in my opinion the worst decision of them all, a terrible contract for an overrated player.

Brad Zeiler
Brad Zeiler

This article brought me to tears at work.

Eddy, do you think either Otis or Stan will lose their jobs over this?

Mateus Fregonassi
Mateus Fregonassi

Great article, Eddy.

Otis did a good job twice (getting Alston and then trading for Carter and Anderson) but he broke the team this season. Losing to the Hawks is just the result of bad management all season long.

Letting Barnes go to get Quentin Richardson (I like the guy but Barnes is the better overall player) and f****** Chris Duhon.

Shipping Pietrus and Gortat (the two best defenders in the roster after Dwight) and Carter (who was really giving his max effort in D) plus a 1st round pick for an aging (bad contract also) Turkoglu, J-Rich (Carter minus effort in D, expiring), Clark (who might be out of the roster next season because the Suns didn't exercise the qualifying option) and a TPE Otis won't use.

And shipping Lewis (at least a good role player to figure in Magic's rotation in the playoffs) with just one more year full-guaranteed (and a good trade chip next season, even more with the lockout) for his old buddy Arenas (worst contract in the league) to perform Duhon-like.

Bad management will cost Dwight Howard. He won't be back when his contract is over.

Adolfo
Adolfo

You're right this team is broken, I don't know why but our shots aren't falling and our players have the defeat all over their faces, I'm sad about my Magic, D12 is leaving and we will be back to loosing seasons...not good.

Mike (MoveThoseChains)
Mike (MoveThoseChains)

Eddy, I agree with all but one thing: there's not time to fix everything. It is going to take Arenas and Turkoglu expiring, or Otis Smith becoming the GM of another team and foolishly trading for his not-son again.

You were right back in March, and it's so unfortunate that trade "haters" (like me) have been proven right. This team is so much worse than last year's team.

Jonathan
Jonathan

what about Stan Van Gundy being broken? When Jrich returns next game, SVG will still find a way to play everyone (even an injured chris duhon) over Arenas.

KenKaniff
KenKaniff

Diggin the column. Mr Rivera i read a lot of bball blogs, being a fanatic of course. From Zach Lowe, Kelly Dwyer, John Hollinger, etc. You easily have to be the most pessimistic of the bunch. I remember a column you wrote in early "March" yes March, condemning the Magic team. True Otis was aggressive, maybe too much, but the players are the ones who play. It is sad to see D12 blossom like this and his supporting cast soo feeble. You do make a good point. Dwight would be smart to leave, n if i were him i would pay particular att to Chris Paul's knees, cause if those things can hold up. Absolute nightmare couple.

eltharion_doa
eltharion_doa

A living obituary for your 2010/11 Orlando Magic.

Magic Fan in NYC
Magic Fan in NYC

Eddy, I love ya and all, but this conjecture is one game too early. This series isn't over and as bleak as this looks, I still think this team can pull this off.