- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic won’t sweep the Atlanta Hawks out of the playoffs this year. This time, the Magic look like the ones who could be steamrolled. In a dramatic reversal from last postseason, the Hawks dominated the Magic on Saturday, winning Game 1 of their first-round playoff series 103-93 at Amway Center. Only a Herculean night on offense from Dwight Howard and a spectacular third quarter from Jameer Nelson prevented the loss from turning into a rout. Almost nothing worked for Orlando. The Magic didn’t defend. They didn’t protect the basketball. And only Howard and Nelson posed a threat on the offensive end of the court. Howard scored a Magic playoff-record 46 points, while Nelson chipped in 20 of his 27 in the third period. Together, they accounted for 73 of the team’s 93 points. Shooting guard Jason Richardson? Small forward Hedo Turkoglu? They combined for just 10 points. Power forwards Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass? They didn’t score a point. The Hawks didn’t have that problem. Five players on their roster scored in double figures, led by shooting guard Joe Johnson, who poured in 25 points. After it ended, Howard looked dazed at the postgame press conference that he shared with Nelson. Howard stared blankly at the box score on the table in front of him for almost three consecutive minutes.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “As you might suspect, Hawks center Jason Collins and his brother, Jarron, played all the pranks that twins play growing up. Subbing on dates. Posing for one another in classrooms. Impersonating each other on the phone. Jason played a spectacular prank Saturday night on Dwight Howard. He was on the floor for just 18 minutes against him, scored a whopping one point and fouled out with half of the final quarter remaining. Howard tied a franchise playoff record with 46 points in Game 1 — and lost. Collins left the court like a battered pitcher, but he got the W. Nice gag. Are you kidding me? Ok, I now believe in Big Foot, aliens and Jason Collins — whatever mystical mojo that Collins conjures against Howard. He now has beaten Dwight’s team four of the last five times.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic kept going to Dwight Howard Saturday night, and it’s hard to blame them. He was unstoppable, showing the world his offensive improvement translates to the postseason by scoring a career-high 46 points on 16-of-23 shooting. But for some pesky reason, the Magic don’t seem to play well when Howard goes off. They’re 3-4 when he scores at least 30 points in playoff games, and it’s no coincidence that most of those games featured teams who insisted on single-covering Howard, like the Hawks did during Saturday night’s 103-93 win over the Magic. It’s not complicated why this happens. Howard continues to get his points, but the Magic’s offense doesn’t open up because the defenders are staying glued to the perimeter players. That’s why the Magic shot 27.3 percent from three-point range and everyone except Howard and Jameer Nelson combined to score just 20 points.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “In the days leading up to Saturday’s Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks, the Orlando Magic installed placards on each player’s dressing stall that featured a picture of the NBA’s Larry O’Brien championship trophy and the word ‘BELIEVE’ in bold, block letters. After the double-whammy that Orlando was hit with on Saturday – getting repeatedly gashed defensively and looking stagnant offensively outside of the play from captains Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson – the Magic likely had a hard time believing their shaky plight so early in these playoffs. Five Atlanta players scored in double figures and the Hawks shockingly shot 73 percent in the second and third quarters to stun the Magic 103-93 at the Amway Center despite a slew of franchise playoff records set by Howard and Nelson.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “It’s tempting, I believe, for Magic fans to panic here. I’m not entirely sure that’s warranted. Yes, the Hawks scored efficiently. I understand that much. But it’s the Hawks’ first truly great offensive performance against the Magic’s typically stout defense since March 22nd, 2008, when Mike Bibby (five three-pointers) helped the Hawks score 112 points in 96 possessions… in an Orlando victory. Indeed, the Hawks went more than three years without cracking 1.1 points per possession against Orlando, and I’m skeptical their jump-shooting core of Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Josh Smith can continue to hit mostly difficult shots with a high degree of accuracy. But the Magic still have serious issues to work out if they are to rally back and take this series. Apart from the serious scoring imbalance, turnovers continue to plague the team. Their 18 miscues tonight led to 21 Hawks points. Howard will draw criticism for his 8 turnovers, but if anything, Quentin Richardson (2 turnovers in 7 minutes despite hardly ever touching the ball) and [Gilbert] Arenas (3 in 12 minutes) deserve a bit more scrutiny.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Hawks flipped the switch. Suddenly guard Joe Johnson looked like a five-time All-Star again. Jamal Crawford found the form that made him last season’s Sixth Man of the Year. Kirk Hinrich showed why the Hawks traded for him in February. And when the Orlando Magic attempted to rally from 18 points down in the fourth quarter, the Hawks responded with the kind of toughness and resolve they had shown only occasionally in the regular season. The Hawks stunned the Magic 103-93 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Saturday night. They nullified Orlando’s home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series that continues here Tuesday. It was a surprising result given the history and circumstances.”
- Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: “A tremendous win for the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, that degree of jump shooting accuracy is unlikely to be sustainable for another game but neither can Dwight Howard (for an entire game) nor Jameer Nelson (for another half) be expected to be so simultaneously tremendous again for the Magic, especially if Larry Drew can resist the temptation to ask Josh Powell and Etan Thomas to defend Howard for a 12-minute stretch of the first half or leave Kirk Hinrich on the bench for a ten-and-a-half minute stretch of the second half so Nelson can enjoy the freedom of being guarded by Jamal Crawford.”
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
The Atlanta Hawks were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 103-93 to win Game 1 in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. In one felt swoop, the Hawks were able to win a postseason game on the road and wrestle home-court advantage away from the Magic. The key for Atlanta was getting production from their starters, excluding Jason Collins, and Jamal Crawford. Five players scored in double-figures for the Hawks, including a team-high 25 points from Joe Johnson on 9-of-16 shooting from the field, and each of them were able to take over the game at different junctures. Orlando’s inability to slow down Atlanta offensively in the second and third quarters proved to be their downfall. The Hawks shot 72.7 percent in those periods and turned the ball over just three times, allowing themselves a chance to score on nearly every possession. Atlanta was able to make a number of jumpshots, many of them on open looks, and that was that. On the flipside, the Hawks’ strategy of allowing Dwight Howard to do whatever he wanted on offense worked, as they were able to contain every player on the Magic’s roster not named Howard and Jameer Nelson — another important factor. It’s the reason that Howard played the best game of his career and Orlando lost. Howard was dominant on both ends of the floor, tying a career-high with 46 points and 19 rebounds. Howard set a playoff franchise record by scoring 31 points in the first half and tied another record (with Tracy McGrady in 2003 against the Detroit Pistons) with the most points scored in a postseason game. It was a phenomenal effort by Howard but overlooked because the Magic were unable to come away with a victory. Nelson was also spectacular, starting off slow with one point in the first half but finishing with 27 points and six rebounds while setting a playoff franchise record by scoring the most points in a quarter with 20 in the third. In a lot of ways, it was a strange game for Orlando because their two best players performed to their maximums but the rest of the team faltered. It was a paradox in some ways.
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I gathered writers, the best of the best in the blogosphere, to participate in a roundtable discussion and answer some of the most pertinent questions concerning the Orlando Magic as the 2011 NBA Playoffs are set to begin.
So, without further ado, here are the participants:
Each individual provided a quick breakdown of the series between the Magic and the Atlanta Hawks, his opinion on the player that is the x-factor for Orlando in the postseason, and more.
If the Orlando Magic make it past the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, is facing off against the Chicago Bulls (as opposed to the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics) the best chance for them to return to the Eastern Conference Finals for a third consecutive year?
Zach Lowe: No. I don’t see facing the Bulls as any more advantageous to Orlando than facing Boston or Miami. Conventional wisdom has it that the Magic have problems with Boston, but much of that conventional wisdom was based on the presence of Kendrick Perkins and overlooks how competitive games between the two have been. Bottom line: Boston, Miami and Chicago are all excellent teams, and the Magic will have a tough time beating any of them–just as each of those three will have to work to beat Orlando.
Beckley Mason: It’s a better match-up than Miami because LeBron just kills them, but I don’t think the Celtics, as they are playing now, would be worse than the Bulls. I think the idea that Boston could single-cover Dwight [Howard] with Shaq is fairly laughable, but at least he might draw Howard into some fouls. The Bulls on the other hand won’t isolate Noah, and so Howard would seem less susceptible to picking up cheapies against Chicago. In any event, to get past any of the top teams in the East, the Magic wings are going to have to shoot the lights out.