AP Photo/John Raoux
With Dwight Howard out (herniated disk in lower back), it’s no surprise that the Atlanta Hawks beat the Orlando Magic on Friday. The Hawks haven’t had much trouble defeating the Magic with Dwight for the past two seasons, so taking him out of the equation made Friday’s game a mere formality.
Case and point. This game was over in the first half. Atlanta held a 19-point lead at halftime largely due to the fact that they put together their best first quarter on offense this season, notching season-highs in points (36) and field goal percentage (75 percent).
With no Dwight, Orlando fell apart defensively against the Hawks. The Magic allowed way too much dribble penetration, which had a trickle-down effect as Atlanta was able to either attack the rim and score in the paint or create open looks on the perimeter. And when the Hawks weren’t busy puncturing holes in Orlando’s defense in half-court sets, they were getting out in transition and scoring in the open court.
The first quarter was a disaster for the Magic and it was simply a sign of things to come for the remainder of the game. Atlanta was nearly infallible against Orlando and it reflected not only on the scoreboard but in the box score as well.
For the game, the Hawks shot 50.6 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range (14-for-35), and 93.8 percent from the free-throw line (15-for-16). As for the Magic? Their stat-line read: 38.8 percent from the floor, 21.4 percent (6-for-28) from three-point range, and 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from the free-throw line. Now you can plainly see why Orlando got blown out.
The Magic just couldn’t hit shots offensively. Part of it was Atlanta’s defense, yes, but part of it was Orlando having a bad shooting night. Ryan Anderson was a prime example, as he missed routine putbacks on offensive rebounds and numerous wide-open looks behind the three-point line.
All in all, it was a bad performance from the Magic in all facets.
Plus, with word that Dwight is done for the remainder of the regular season, as he tries to rest and rehab a herniated disk in his lower back (originally diagnosed as back spasms before Dwight got a second opinion), this already nightmarish season has gotten worse for Orlando.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
It’s hard to really pinpoint one guy, as nearly everyone for the Hawks played well against the Magic. This was an old-fashioned butt-whooping and Atlanta did it collectively, not so much with strong individual efforts.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
The old adage of “when Jameer Nelson goes, so goes Orlando” is accurate but the same could be probably said of Anderson. He’s an excellent barometer of the Magic’s success. When Anderson struggles, so does Orlando.