Recapping Games 3 and 4 for the Orlando Magic with Synergy | Magic Basketball



Apr 25

Recapping Games 3 and 4 for the Orlando Magic with Synergy

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Before the playoffs started, I previewed Orlando’s first round matchup using data from Synergy Sports Technology. Last week, we looked at the playoff games in Orlando. Today, let’s examine the results from the contests in Atlanta.

Game 3

PPP = Points Per Possession

Orlando offense
Orlando’s spot-up game finally produced in Game 3. In Games 1 and 2, Orlando never cracked 0.5 PPP in spot-up. In Game 3, it was Orlando’s best play and they obtained 1.4 PPP. The performance far exceeded their season average of 1.05 PPP, which ranked as the 5th best in the NBA.

The ball handler’s in the pick-and-roll were used extensively Game 3, but their production was the worst among their playoff games. Through three post-season games, Orlando’s pick-and-roll PPP hasn’t matched their lofty production in the regular season.

The Magic utilized roll men four times in Game 2 but reverted to little use in Game 3. Orlando only used their most potent play on one occasion, a Hedo Turkoglu lob to Dwight Howard in the 1st quarter.

The post-up game for Orlando was successful for the third straight game. The indomitable force, Dwight Howard, was responsible for all seven of Orlando’s post-up buckets. He made four hook shots over Jason Collins, two with each hand. Brandon Bass and Jason Richardson used the other three attempts.

Orlando only managed a single And 1 attempt for the second straight game. Dwight Howard was fouled by 2003 Magic draft pick Zaza Pachulia with two minutes left in the first half.

Orlando was the best team in the NBA after they secured an offensive rebound in the regular season and they have continued this trend through three playoff games. Orlando averaged 1.25 PPP after offensive rebounds in the first game in Atlanta.

One particularly bad area for Orlando was their percentage on transition three-pointers. The team went 1-6, and Quentin Richardson’s make over Pachulia was the only successful attempt.

Hedo shot 3-11 overall and went 1-6 beyond the arc. Among players with 600 or more attempts, only three active players (Ron Artest, Jason Kidd, Stephen Jackson) have a lower career FG% than Hedo does in the playoffs.

Orlando defense
The roll men for Atlanta burned Orlando again. As mentioned before, Orlando was elite at stopping roll men during the regular season. However, the 1st and 3rd games of this series were a different story. Al Horford was on the receiving end of 4 of the 6 roll attempts and made a jumper on this play with under one minute left to give Atlanta a 85-84 lead.

The Magic did, however, prevent the ball handlers from doing too much. Jamal Crawford shot five times off the pick-and-roll and missed every time. As a team, the Hawks missed their last six chances. Their only successful trips were from a Dwight Howard goal tending call and a step-back jumper by Kirk Hinrich.

In the first game in Orlando, Atlanta’s best play was shooters coming off screens, and it was more of the same in the first game at the Highlight Factory. In total, Atlanta made 5-7 shots and went 1-1 on deep attempts. Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson were the only two players for Atlanta to shoot after running off screens. Crawford went 2-3 and Johnson went 3-4.

Atlanta’s post-up game was considerably better in Game 3. The Hawks used this play on nearly 10% of their possessions and scored 1.1 PPP, an increase of nearly double from their production in Games 1 and 2. Al Horford was responsible for five of Atlanta’s post-up opportunities, and all of his attempts were against Brandon Bass.

For the first time in the series, Orlando held Atlanta to under 1 PPP when they tried to spot-up. The Hawks averaged 1.13+ in the first two games, but in Game 3, they scored 0.84 PPP.

Game 4

PPP = Points Per Possession

Orlando offense
Orlando used the ball handler in the pick-and-roll on 25% of their offensive plays in Game 4, a greater percentage than any of the previous three games. The production, 0.92 PPP, was also a high mark for Orlando in the series. The main contributor was Gilbert Arenas, who shot 7-13 off the pick-and-roll. His teammates combined to shoot 4-11.

On Sunday, the post-up game was relatively inefficient. Orlando once again used more than 20% of their possessions posting-up, but 0.92 PPP was the lowest rate of the series. Furthermore, the Magic turned the ball over on 30% of their possessions. Their first make of the game was when Brandon Bass hit a shot over Josh Smith in the 3rd quarter. Dwight Howard made five shots on this play in the 2nd half after missing all four of his previous attempts.

Scoring after offensive rebounds remained a strength for the Magic as they shot 5-6. Dwight Howard made all three of his attempts, and Ryan Anderson and Arenas both made one. Orlando was the 2nd best team in the NBA on this play during the regular season, and they have produced 1+ PPP in all four games of the playoffs.

The spot-up shooting was historically bad. After producing 1.4 PPP in Game 3, the Magic only mustered 0.44 PPP in Game 4. Quentin Richardson made Orlando’s first spot-up three attempt of the game, but it was all downhill from there. The rest of the team misfired on nine consecutive attempts.

I searched through the Basketball-Reference database to relate Orlando’s shooting performance to other miserable efforts. Regrettably, Orlando is the only NBA team since 1990 to shoot 23 or more three-pointers and make less than 10% of their attempts. The 1997 Miami Heat came close when they made 3 of their 26 attempts against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls on May 22nd.

Orlando defense
The Hawks isolation game was successful yet again in Game 4. Atlanta went to the play slightly over 20% of the time and produced 1.1 PPP. Reserve Jamal Crawford made 3 of his 5 attempts, including a three ball in the 4th quarter to break a 68-68 tie.

I used the Basketball Reference database to evaluate Crawford’s display this series, and I discovered he is the only reserve to score 23+ points in four straight NBA playoff games since 1986. Spurs guard Manu Ginobili scored 23+ off the bench three straight times during the 2007 playoffs.

In a puzzler, the Hawks pick-and-roll beat Orlando’s top unit again. In the regular season, Atlanta was about average running the pick-and-roll, and the Magic were one of the best teams in the NBA at stopping it. In Game 4, the ball handlers for the Hawks scored 1.07 PPP and the roll men scored 1 PPP. Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson used 8 of Atlanta’s 10 possessions as the ball handlers, and Al Horford was on the receiving end of six passes.

Atlanta’s spot-up attempts were great inside the arc and futile behind it. The Hawks made 5 of 7 attempts inside the arc, and only 2 of 7 from deep. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith combined to go 0-4 on spot-up three-pointers.

The Magic shut down the Hawks post-up game better on Sunday than they had in previous games. The Hawks only managed to make 2 of 8 attempts, and went to the play just once in the 2nd half.

In the end, a historically bad performance by Orlando and a historically great performance by Jamal Crawford resulted in an 88-85 victory for the Hawks.


It was disappointing to hear the announcers say after half-time that Stan's message was about making shots fall, and according to ESPN, that this is still his strategy going into Game 5. Atlanta has the ability to defend Dwight one-on-one and has a size advantage at every other position. That is why the shots are not falling. Not feeding Dwight the ball in the first half was bad coaching. Especially when there was only one player on the ATL roster that wasn't suspended that can guard him, and that guy has a tailbone injury that will keep him from his normal flopping. That was a golden opportunity.

Orlando needs to penetrate. Plain and simple. We need to drive to the hoop, dish to the open man if the lane is blocked and drive again, and run more pick-and-rolls for the roll man... Dwight. He is the only one shooting a high FG%, so why were 23 three-pointers taken? To see "the shots must fall" idea repeated into game 5 when that clearly hasn't been working is idiotic.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein...

Carlo Simone
Carlo Simone

I hate that we can't seem to get over the hump in this series. You said it best at the end. A historically bad game from the Magic and a historically great game from Crawford and the Hawks barely held on to win by three. I have a problem with clenching my teeth when I sleep but I might have to wear my mouthguard during the day with the way this playoff series is unfolding.