Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
The main storyline is that the Atlanta Hawks, for the ninth time in 13 tries dating back to last season, beat the Orlando Magic, despite not having Al Horford, Joe Johnson, and Jason Collins.
And the main reason that the Magic keep losing to the Hawks is because they simply can’t score.
Zaza Pachulia assumed the role of “Dwight stopper” for a second time this season, limiting Howard to 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor in 40 minutes. One of the ways that Pachulia was able to limit Howard to seven field-goal attempts was by doing a great job of denying entry passes to the big fella. Throughout the game, several perimeter players for Orlando had great difficulty finding the proper angle to make an entry pass. As such, time and again, the shot clock would wind down and someone from the Magic would have to take a contested jumper.
This is where having a player that can create his shot at any time would have helped Orlando. Alas, that player has yet to be acquired by general manager Otis Smith.
Another fascinating subplot (carrying over from the first game this season) is witnessing head coach Larry Drew continue to rely on a rarely used defensive strategy — crossmatching. Typically, teams in the NBA don’t crossmatch because they may not have the personnel to do so. In this case, Drew is fortunate to have a versatile defender like Josh Smith.
With the requisite athleticism and strength plus a 7-foot wingspan, you have to figure that Smith should be able to defend a guy like Turkoglu without much trouble. Indeed, that’s what happened, as Turkoglu struggled to get a shot off against Smith with any consistency.
The other side of the coin is Marvin Williams. Listed at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Williams isn’t that much smaller than 6-foot-10, 240-pound Ryan Anderson. The worry that Anderson is going to beat Williams with his athleticism, strength, or length isn’t there. Additionally, Anderson is not much of a shot creator. So frankly, all Williams has to do defensively is account for Anderson on the perimeter — like he did in this game — and he’s good.
With Anderson and Turkoglu combining to shoot 8-for-29 from the floor (27.5 percent), Howard getting limited touches, and no one else besides J.J. Redick making much of an impact on offense, it’s not a surprise that the Magic lost to Atlanta. Again.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Josh Smith was fairly quiet in the fourth quarter as the Hawks desperately held onto a narrow lead. But J-Smoove dominated early, with 14 of his 22 points coming in the first quarter.
Jannero Pargo and Willie Green were the unsung heroes. Pargo was unconscious in the second quarter, scoring 12 of his 15 points. Green made some critical baskets in the fourth quarter to help fend off Orlando’s rally.