Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 241

May 11

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “The [Orlando] Magic were scheduled to have Tuesday and Wednesday off, but several players and all the coaches will likely end up at the team headquarters on Wednesday to get in shooting, conditioning and film sessions. [Vince] Carter, who has said that he rarely ever watches NBA games on TV when the Magic aren’t playing, was the most excited about having another break, feeling it will help him recharge his energy and channel his focus for his first-ever berth in the Eastern Conference Finals. [...] Rhythm and flow are vitally important to basketball players, many of whom are used to playing games every other day during the marathon regular season. But [Rashard] Lewis said that the Magic are so locked in right now that no amount of time could distract this team from its mission of trying to win a championship.”
  • Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie thinks Jameer Nelson is due some respect, given how well he’s been playing in the 2010 NBA Playoffs: “Nelson was playing arguably the best ball of his career last season before suffering a torn labrum in his right shoulder that knocked him out of commission from February through the NBA Finals in June (and, frankly, probably should have kept him in the cooler until the start of this year). Healthy again, surrounded by talent and fueled by the prospect of championship-round redemption, he’s operating at a whole new level, and it’s a pleasure to see. Dude’s doing work, kids. Admire the sharpness.”
  • Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus analyzes the Orlando Magic’s sweep of the Atlanta Hawks and explains what it will mean for the victors moving forward: “The Magic move on to the conference finals and will have at least a week to rest and prepare for the survivor of the Cleveland-Boston series. Of course, Orlando wore the opposite shoe last season, battling the Celtics to seven games in the conference semis while the Cavaliers rested up after pounding the Hawks in four straight. So you can bet Stan Van Gundy is going to have his squad practicing plenty hard during the layoff. The Cavaliers and Celtics are both terrific teams and they both present certain problems for the Magic. However, no team is playing as well as Orlando, which now should be considered the odds-on favorite to win it all.”
  • Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playoffs breaks down two plays that show why the series went horribly wrong for the Hawks.
  • Bill Simmons of ESPN.com: “This goes to Orlando’s Amway Arena (better known as the O-Rena), which opened in 1989 as a “state-of-the-art” place and quickly became the last nobody-had-any-idea-what-they-were-doing-when-they-were-building-these-things sports arena. No club seats, no midlevel boxes, concrete aisles … just call this place the Hot Tub Time Machine Arena. (When I walked in, I thought I was suddenly back in college attending a WWE event at the Worcester Centrum. I kept looking around for Rick Rude and Demolition.) The poor Magic recently had to build another new arena that opens next season; if someone doesn’t purchase the O-Rena by next year (asking price: $90 million), the city of Orlando is probably knocking it down. So the Magic got 21 years out of a “state-of-the-art” arena. That’s a catastrophe. On the bright side …”
  • Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk gives the Magic props: “This match-up was the epitome of unfavorable for Atlanta, but I’m not sure there’s a valid excuse for just how poorly the Hawks played in this series. Then again, it’s not too much of a surprise for the best team in basketball to look like the best team in basketball. The real story isn’t that Atlanta and Charlotte were winless, it’s that Orlando made them that way. Basketball-Reference’s Neil Paine broke down the most lopsided playoff sweeps of all time, and no matter how you slice it — straight up point differential, accounting for overtimes, accounting for home court advantage, by measuring how many games in a series were lopsided — the Magic’s second-round dismantling of the Hawks was one of the most impressive in league history.”
  • Here’s a link to Neil Paine’s findings.
  • Dwight Howard provides his thoughts: “I really like how we’re playing like a team on a mission. We’re not going out there and acting like we’ve got a 2-0 or 3-0 cushion in these series. We’re staying hungry and humble and keeping our foot on the throttle every game. Back in the day, we used to relax in games and relax in series like this and we’d let teams come back on us. I think we’ve come a long way and are not doing that anymore. That’s a sign of maturity for us. Now, we’re going to get two days off, but ya’ll know I’ll be back in the gym real soon getting my swolle on in the weight room. I also plan on working on my free throws. I’ve already talked to our guys about not losing focus or losing that edge just because we have a break.”
  • A number of ESPN writers chime in on the MVP’s of the postseason, so far. Nelson and Howard, among others, receive recognition for their sterling play.

May 11

Series in a Nutshell

May 11

Second Look: Orlando Magic 98, Atlanta Hawks 84

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “For a team driven to be the last men standing, the Orlando Magic have hung around the least amount of time of any playoff entrant. It’s getting so you can see Dwight Howard more on TV in his movie trailers or in his cell-phone commercial than in a series. It’s not as if the Magic don’t enjoy their job or don’t play well with others. They just have been that frighteningly efficient and dominant, more so than any of their contending rivals. On Monday night, the Magic made short work of the Atlanta Hawks with a 98-84 victory at Philips Arena, eliminating them in four games to set up a repeat appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Magic are halfway home to winning the franchise’s first title, looking poised and purposeful to complete the task after beating a 53-win team by 43, 14, 30 and 14 points.”
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Just when you think this team might take a night off, they throttle it up and shoot 74 percent in the first quarter Monday night to bury any hopes the Hawks might have had. It’s no wonder Philips Arena seemed more like a cemetery. Atlanta fans obviously took star Joe Johnson’s words to heart. Johnson, after the Hawks were booed off the floor after Game 3, said he “could care less if [fans] show up” at the arena. Well, thousands of fans didn’t’ show up for Game 4, and it’s probably just as well. Why endure even more Magic-inflicted misery? [Stan] Van Gundy obviously doesn’t adhere to the philosophy that his team needed to sample the bitter taste of defeat in order to toughen them up for Cleveland or Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. Although Van Gundy admits a loss can sometimes “wake up” a team; he says the great teams don’t need to lose.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Orlando finished with 27 total assists, a high for them this postseason. On a night when unselfishness was the norm, two of the more important assists came from Howard and [Rashard] Lewis. Howard kicked the ball out early in the fourth quarter to Lewis, who made a 3-pointer to extend Orlando’s lead to 78-66. On Orlando’s next offensive possession, Lewis rotated the ball out to Carter, who sank a 19-foot jumper to give the Magic an 80-66 lead — and control of the game. The offense had worked to perfection.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “How thoroughly dominant were the Magic against the third-seeded, 53-win Hawks? The Magic’s 101-point margin of victory (wins of 43, 14, 30 and 14 points) is the most in NBA history in a four-game playoff series.  “This team is ready for anything,” said Howard, who scored 13 points, made all five his shots and finished with the highest shooting percentage (84.4 percent) in a playoff series. “We are on a mission. It’s not about the individuals with us, but instead what the team can do. We don’t care who gets the points, the rebounds and the shots because it’s just about winning.” Off seven days between the first-round series and the second, the Magic will now have another extended break before getting the survivor of the Cleveland-Boston series. The top-seeded Cavs and fourth-seeded Celtics are locked in a 2-2 tie with Game 5 Tuesday in Cleveland and Game 6 Thursday in Boston. The Magic’s series in the Eastern Conference Finals won’t begin until Sunday at the earliest and Tuesday at the latest. Games 1 and 2 would be in Orlando if Boston emerges, while the series would start in Cleveland if the Cavs survive.”
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The Magic ran their offense to perfection in the first quarter, and got open looks wherever and whenever they wanted. They scored on 15 of their 22 possessions in the period. To further stress the magnitude of the clinic they put on, turnovers from Howard accounted for 3 of the 7 empty trips. Throughout this series, the Hawks failed to consistently take any one facet of Orlando’s offense away. They couldn’t contain [Jameer] Nelson on the pick-and-roll, Howard in the low post (except for when he turned it over), or any of the perimeter shooting which proved a huge factor in their undoing in this series. Lewis and [Mickael] Pietrus got warmup jumpers thanks to some clean passes, as they did throughout the series. Atlanta tried countering that for a spell by assigning the long, athletic, shot-blocking Josh Smith to cover Pietrus for a few possessions, but rather than use his physical tools as a closeout nightmare, he played off Pietrus and let him shoot. Because playing a guy who had taken 33 of his 46 playoff shot attempts from beyond the arc for the drive is totally reasonable.”
  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “They’d just beaten the Bucks in the first two games of their opening playoffs series. Their offense was clicking, the defense was effective and both Hawks players and their fans were happy. The Hawks weren’t the same thereafter. They lost three straight to Milwaukee, offering lackluster defense and fraying chemistry. They recovered to win that series but two days later walked into a disaster at Orlando, suffering their worst playoff loss since the franchise moved to Atlanta. [...] In just nine days, everything changed for the Hawks. Now they head into an offseason that could bring major changes.”
  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Johnson averaged 21.1 points this season, 11th-best in the league. If he leaves, those points would have to be made up somewhere. Who’s going to do it? Neither Horford nor Smith is a pure scorer — good players, yes, but not pure scorers. Is Marvin Williams apt to double his average? (We pause now to laugh really hard.) Is Mike Bibby capable of averaging even 10 points a game? I say again: You might not like the way Johnson plays — I myself soured on Iso-Joe last season — but you can’t deny he puts up big numbers. He’s not Kobe or D-Wade, but he’s the third-best shooting guard in the league. Unless the Hawks can find someone better, they’re better off sticking with Joe. And they won’t find anyone better.”
  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “There’s a difference between being embarrassed and being disappointed. Losing a playoff series is disappointing. Losing playoff games by lopsided margins because of lack of effort is embarrassing. That’s not about talent.  It’s about character, chemistry and coaching. If ownership and Sund don’t make a coaching change, they basically are saying that getting pushed to the brink of elimination by an undermanned Milwaukee team in round one and getting waxed by a combined 87 points in three games against Orlando in round two was an aberration. The bet here is they’ll decide otherwise. Woodson will be gone.”
  • Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: “The Atlanta Hawks had no answers for the Orlando Magic. Most of the time, they looked unable to recognize which questions were being asked of them. A successful season bred an unsuccessful post-season, first against a less talented team that could better execute a game plan specific to the occasion then against a more talented team that could simply execute a better game plan.”
  • Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “For the Magic, and their championship hopes, it was a second consecutive sweep, and now another long break to rest and recuperate before facing an opponent in the conference final that will come directly from a hard-fought series. For the Hawks, it’s a dreadful ending that surely will overshadow their best regular season in 12 years, leading to major changes in the franchise, which could include departures by coach Mike Woodson and All-Star Joe Johnson, both without contracts for next season. It has Atlanta burning. It has Orlando thinking it is unbeatable and on track to win a title. The Magic became just the sixth team in history to win its first eight games in a single postseason.”
  • John Hollinger of ESPN.com: “See if you can wrap your heads around this one: Orlando has outscored opponents by a whopping 421 points over its past 30 games. To put this in perspective, the Lakers, Suns and Celtics — who could be the other three teams left standing when the conference finals start next week — didn’t outscore the opposition by 421 points over the entirety of the 82-game regular season, much less in the final 30 games of it. That’s an average of 14 points per game, which simply isn’t done over long stretches — nobody else in the NBA had an average margin even half that size during the regular season. This isn’t run-of-the-mill good, people. This is blow-your-doors-off, hide-the-women-and-children level domination. The Magic are so good that Stan Van Gundy is in danger of running out of things to worry about.”
  • John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk: “The one caveat for them going forward is that Howard will be facing either Kendrick Perkins or Shaquille O’Neal down low in the conference finals, both of whom provide a much more formidable challenge than Al Horford or Zaza Pachulia did in this series. If Howard plays like he did against Charlotte, The Celtics or Cavaliers could muster up enough offense to send the Magic home. If Howard can be effective in the post and stay out of foul trouble, the Magic have to be the overwhelming favorites to come out of the East again this season, and have a very good chance of winning the first championship in Magic history. The Magic are only halfway to their goal, but they sure do look like a juggernaut at the moment.”
  • Paul Forrester of Sports Illustrated: “Recall, if you will, much the same was asked of a Cleveland team that had blown through the first two rounds without a loss while the Magic wrestled to get past Philadelphia in Round 1, before struggling to get past the Celtics in seven games. Sound familiar to this year’s potential scenario, only with the Magic and Cavs switching places? Look, Orlando has played exquisitely through eight wins, but the Magic haven’t exactly been tested, not against the overmatched Bobcats or the vacation-thirsty Hawks. Both Boston and Cleveland offer far more difficult matchups, from size in the middle to length on the wings to defense on the perimeter. Of course, none of those matchups will mean much if the Celtics or Cavs don’t play with the discipline the Magic have demonstrated. Orlanddo’s defensive rotations are crisp, rarely revealing an open opponent. The passing on offense is endless, the ball moving until it finds an open target. And their shot-making is accurate, punishing double-teams on other areas of the floor. In other words, it’s going to take a combination of talent, effort and focus to beat the Magic, a stew few teams, the kind Boston and Cleveland are capable of, but have yet to show in these playoffs.”
  • Eric Freeman of The Baseline: “Orlando took this game by doing what they’ve done throughout the playoffs: outclassing their opponent in every facet of the game. A 34-23 first quarter announced they were going to end this series tonight, and they carried that performance through the rest of the game: 55.4 percent shooting, 27 assists on 36 field goals, holding the Hawks to only 40.5 percent shooting, etc. ad infinitum. Five players scored at least 12 points, including Vince Carter, who led the team with 22 on 7-of-12 FG.”
  • Sean Deveney of The Baseline: “With their 98-84 win to complete a sweep of the suddenly hapless Hawks, the Magic are now looking at perhaps a week off for rest, relaxation and rust prevention. That’s not always a simple task, and the big question facing the defending East champs is whether the last five weeks have been too easy in advance of what figures to be a tough conference finals matchup. Orlando has not lost since April 2 and swept both of its playoff foes by an average margin of 17.3 points. It’s going well for the Magic. Perhaps too well.”

May 10

Recap: Orlando Magic 98, Atlanta Hawks 84

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Two playoff series. Two sweeps.

The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Atlanta Hawks by the score of 98-84 and as a result, set a record for making the series the most lopsided in NBA playoff history by outscoring the Hawks by 101 points in four games. Oh, and the Magic advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for a second consecutive season. Orlando will await the winner of the series between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Magic were led by their four All-Stars, like in Game 2. Jameer Nelson had 16 points and nine assists, Rashard Lewis had 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists, Dwight Howard had 13 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks, and Vince Carter had 22 points on 12 shots. Mickael Pietrus chipped in with 12 points off the bench.

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May 10

Preview: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks, Game 4

8:00 EDT | TNT
59-23 @ 53-29
Pythagorean Record: 61-21 Pythagorean Record: 54-28
Pace: 92.0 (18th) Pace: 90.1 (27th)
Offensive Rating: 111.4 (4th) Offensive Rating: 111.9 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: 103.3 (3rd) Defensive Rating: 106.7 (13th)
Philips Arena | Magic lead series 3-0

May 10

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “If the Orlando Magic defeat Atlanta Hawks tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Magic will become only the sixth team in NBA history to win its first eight games of a single postseason. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1982-83 Los Angeles Lakers, the 1988-89 Lakers, the 2000-01 Lakers, the 2004-05 Miami Heat and the 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers are the only teams in league history to have started a postseason with an undefeated record of at least 8-0. The Magic enter tonight’s game with a 7-0 record in these playoffs.”
  • Vince Carter has been enjoying the playoff ride, so far.
  • Joe Johnson states that the Atlanta Hawks will “give everything” they got against the Orlando Magic in Game 4.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “ With his Orlando Magic possibly on the verge of their second four-game sweep in as many weeks, small forward Matt Barnes was asked on Sunday about the prospect of recreating Moses Malone’s famous “Fo’, Fo’ Fo’’’ prediction. “Yeah, Moses Malone, baby,’’ said Barnes, one of the players old enough to recall the 27-year-old prediction. “That would be great, wouldn’t it? It’s a lot easier said than done, but that’s what we’re going for.’’ [...] The Magic have been able to break the will of Charlotte and Atlanta with their ability to build a lead and then dramatically add upon it. Part of the reason is Orlando possessing four all-star starters and the deepest bench in the NBA. But another factor is Orlando’s rising maturity and expanding killer instinct.”
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy chimes in on the firing of Vinny Del Negro.
  • Scoop Jackson of ESPN Page 2 wants to thank the Hawks for making him look stupid: “Thanks. That’s the only word that feels appropriate. That’s the only word ESPN will let me use without violating the language code set in place for moments just like this. Thanks for making me look like an idiot for publicly picking you to win the East. Yes, I said “publicly” and yes I did that. Back In January, I went out of my way to tell anyone that wanted to listen that I believed the team from the ATL was going to be the last one standing in the NBA East when it was all said and done. Over Boston, over Cleveland, over the Orlando Magic. Now I look like the last comic standing … without any jokes.”
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post takes a look at Orlando’s success in the postseason: “Uh, yeah, the Magic are dominating on both sides of the ball; just look at that 17.9 efficiency differential! Defensively, Orlando is holding its opponents to below league average in each of the Four Factors as well as offensive efficiency. More impressively, the Magic are beating league average themselves in three of the Factors, with the only slippage coming in the turnover area. If you want to disregard the regular season, then consider this: Orlando scored 114.2 points per 100 possessions against the Charlotte Bobcats, the league’s most efficient defensive team, in the first round. And in their current series, the Magic have limited the Hawks, owners of the league’s second-most efficient offensive attack, to 95.2 points per 100 possessions. So it’s clear that Orlando’s success of late is no fluke. It’s truly firing on all cylinders, so to speak, on both sides of the ball. The Magic’s top-notch execution, coupled with their singular focus on winning a championship, has made them as lethal a team as any other in the league.”
  • Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated states that the Magic are the team to beat in the postseason and explains why: “With rare exception, such as the ’08 Celtics in the Big Three’s first season together, NBA champions have been tempered and forged by near-misses at winning it all in the seasons immediately before their breakthrough. The experience the Magic gained by outlasting the Cavs in a thrilling conference finals last year and then succumbing to the Lakers has clearly whet their collective appetite. There are some new components at the top of the rotation — a healthy [Jameer] Nelson in place of Rafer Alston or Anthony Johnson, Carter instead of Hedo Turkoglu – but players like Rashard LewisMickael Pietrus and [Dwight] Howard (against Atlanta anyway) are playing with the confidence and savvy of performers who have already been tested on the big stage. They have experienced just the right amount of success and failure to play with a laser focus and big-picture attitude.”
  • If only Fran Vazquez had the desire to play in the NBA … M. Haubs of The Painted Area highlights the Spaniard’s performance in the 2010 Euroleague Final Four: “Rubio was particularly devastating when paired in the pick and roll with Fran Vazquez, which made it surprising that Barcelona ran the combination so infrequently. As good as Rubio is at making the decisions and completing passes from all angles, Vazquez seems that good at finishing the play – he has great hands and coordination for a 7-footer. Vazquez can also finish the shot both at the rim or on a jump shot. Vazquez had 11 points and 6 rebounds on 5-6 FG in 22 minutes in the semi, and was a defensive force in the final, contributing 4 blocks in just 16 minutes, to go with 6 points (2-2 FG), 2 rebounds and 2 nifty assists. Frankly, I was surprised Vazquez didn’t play more, because I thought he affected both games whenever he was on the floor. The guy has skill, length, mobility, hands: Fran Vazquez is an NBA center, period.”

May 10

The Many Faces of Jason Williams

Ball Don’t Lie took the time, in response to Kobe Bryant’s now-infamous photo shoot, to rank “the most bloggable photos of the Internet age” last week. In response to this humorous endeavor led by Trey Kerby and company, I compiled some pictures of a player on the Orlando Magic that has — inadvertently — aided in the process of creating a slideshow masterpiece.

Behold, the many faces of Jason Williams.

May 10

Starting Lineup Comparison Between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks

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Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic‘s utter dominance of the Atlanta Hawks in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals has been well-documented and, to be honest, this write-up does nothing more than to further throw salt in the wound. And Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post did briefly touch on a similar topic last week. However, I wanted to show how wide the disparity has been, statistically, between the starting lineups of the Magic and the Hawks. Granted, there’s always the issue of sample size when dealing with a limited amount of data but these numbers are too great to ignore. Plus, the statistics do reveal — as first-hand observations would suggest — that Atlanta is better off switching up their lineup even if a series defeat is an inevitability.

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May 10

Sneak Preview: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks, Game 4

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Want to play with Dwight Howard and the Magic? Only shooters need apply. It’s all part of the plan or “formula,” as General Manager Otis Smith calls it. When the Magic landed Howard in the 2004 draft, they decided to surround him with guys who could put the ball in the basket, especially from the 3-point line. “Shooting has to be a priority. You have to think about how to increase space for Dwight and the only way to do that is to put shooters around him,” Smith said. “We’ve done a good job at every position of finding guys who’ve been able to do that.” It’s the guy who has hit only one 3-pointer his entire career (while missing 18) that makes it all possible. Howard draws so much defensive attention that shooters are left uncovered. When the ball is moving crisply, the Magic can resemble a high-scoring video game.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “For the Atlanta Hawks, the question isn’t whether they can become the first team in NBA history to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. Their central challenge is far more basic. Will they play hard when they host the Orlando Magic tonight in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series? Atlanta’s two blowout losses — by 43 points in Game 1 and by 30 points in Game 3 — have left Hawks players and their coach questioning their own heart.”
  • Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com: “Seven down, nine to go. That is the message around the Orlando Magic locker room as they prepare for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday at 8 p.m. ET. The ultimate goal is to claim 16 total victories in the postseason and, as a result, hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Magic have shown throughout the playoffs to be very capable of accomplishing this aspiration. They are a franchise-best 7-0 to start the postseason, have captured 13 straight victories dating back to the regular season and have been relentless in their quest to prove they are the best team in the NBA.”
  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Hawks’ issues might boil down to personnel, philosophy and payroll, with the three areas tied together. The Hawks can’t match the Orlando’s depth. That has contributed to offensive and defensive philosophies that have proven to be less effective in the playoffs than during the regular season. The team’s payroll lags well behind the league’s elite teams. The Hawks’ $66 million payroll ranked last among Eastern Conference teams in the playoffs. It’s $15 million shy of Orlando and $8 million behind the lowest payroll among the other seven teams still playing.”
  • Ken Suguira of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Smith and Howard, Orlando’s All-NBA center, have outgrown daycare but not each other. They’ve been friends since they were young kids and were teammates, with Hawks backup center Randolph Morris, on the Atlanta Celtics AAU team in high school. [...] In that sense, not much has changed. Howard and Smith have gone at each other in the series, now 3-0 in Orlando’s favor, with Game 4 on Monday night at Philips Arena. Smith scores in transition, takes charges and swat shots; Howard controls the paint, throws down vicious dunks and drops in shots from the post.”
  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “To break apart this roster now would be tantamount to surrender, and we know too well what that’s like. But to expect these players to respond more positively to this coach in his seventh season on the job is likewise folly. We Atlantans saw the same thing happen more than two decades ago when a good young team grew up around Mike Fratello but eventually stopped listening. Now as then, it comes down to one question: Is it easier to change the team or change the coach? And the answer, now as then, is that the Hawks can conceivably find an upgrade on Mike Woodson. They might not find another Joe Johnson. This summer isn’t the time to subtract talent. It’s the time to do as the elite teams do and add, add, add.”

May 09

Second Look: Orlando Magic 105, Atlanta Hawks 75

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “[Rashard] Lewis and the Orlando Magic continued their march toward a dream of winning a NBA title, dispatching the Atlanta Hawks 105-75 on Saturday to take a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Magic, beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals last season, can sweep their second consecutive series on Monday night in Game 4 against the Hawks. Orlando pitched a 4-0 shutout in the first round against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Magic remained unbeaten in the playoffs at 7-0 and won their 13th consecutive game, including the last six games of the regular season. They have grounded the Hawks by embarrassing margins, winning by 43, 14 and 30. Saturday’s demolition marked only the fourth time in postseason history that a team has won two or more playoff games by 30 or more points in a single series.”
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “This was not a basketball game so much as it was a funeral march. The only thing missing from the pre-game introductions was a lone bugler playing Taps as the Magic carried a coffin draped in a Hawks banner out to midcourt. This was no coliseum; it was a mausoleum – a place where NBA atmosphere comes to die. You call this place an NBA playoff basketball crowd. It looked more like a WNBA midseason crowd. Even though it was called a sellout, you should have seen the vast expanses of empty seats at tipoff Saturday. The Hawks, even though they won 53 games this season and are the No. 3 seed in the East, were 22nd in the league in attendance.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “What a homecoming for Dwight Howard. With his parents, his brother and his two grandmothers inside Philips Arena, the Orlando Magic center led his team to a 105-75 victory Saturday over the Atlanta Hawks and to within one win of the Eastern Conference finals. Howard overcame early foul trouble to score 21 points and collect a game-high 16 rebounds, and he kept his cool even as he faced a defense that battered him whenever he received the ball deep in the paint. That calmness, often absent during the playoffs’ first round, is what impressed his father most.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Now 7-0 in the playoffs and possibly poised for a second four-game sweep in as many weeks, the Orlando Magic are resembling an unstoppable, unbreakable team clearly on a championship-or-bust mission now. A Magic team that is the NBA’s only undefeated squad in the playoffs and hasn’t lost since early April broke the will of the Atlanta Hawks early on Saturday and coasted though the second half. After the Magic’s 105-75 throttling of the Hawks, all that remains now in this series is a Game 4 that might be a mere formality considering the way Orlando has owned its Southeast Division rivals all season. Just four days after smacking the Hawks around in a 43-point victory, the Magic led this one by as many as 32 points in a bloodbath of a second half. Including the regular season, it was the Magic’s sixth win in seven meetings against the Hawks – with most of them being of the lopsided variety – and the ninth victory in 11 games over the past two seasons.”
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The Magic were all business to start the game, really. Making the right reads, running to open spaces, and scoring with relative ease. And as early as their third possession, we got a great indication of how the game would play out. Lewis short-rimmed a three-pointer from the right wing, but the ball caromed directly to him about 18 feet from the rim. Johnson and Josh Smith converged to get the board, but backed off once Lewis snared it. Johnson then turned his attention to finding his man, while Smith took a step back and clapped his hands in frustration. Lewis took a few dribbles to the basket and laid it in. He’s seen more aggressive defense in pregame layup lines, I can assure you. It struck me as odd that Smith would just concede the shot like that, even knowing Smith’s reputation for taking plays off. It was emblematic of a problem that affected most of the Hawks players today, by my estimation: an utter lack of urgency or purpose. I Tweeted that Atlanta approached this game with all the intensity it’d bring for a January game against the Nets, and even that might have been charitable. Whereas the Magic patiently ran their offense on one end, the Hawks just forced the issue on the other. They didn’t turn the ball over–they rarely do, ranking first in turnover rate this season–but just did not get good looks.”
  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “History suggests the loss means the inevitable end of the Hawks’ season. No NBA team has come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs. At this point the Hawks might settle for the more modest goal of not getting blown out by Orlando. That has happened only once in three playoff games against the Magic, who have led for 121:48 of the 144 minutes played in the series.”
  • Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Hawks delivered an improbably ineffective offensive performance, with guard Joe Johnson stumbling through one of the worst playoff games of his career. Johnson missed his first five shots on his way to a 3-for-15 night for eight points. He missed a series of open jump shots and floaters, shots he normally makes. “I don’t know,” Johnson said, asked for an explanation. “It was a bad game.” The last time Johnson had a lower shooting percentage in a playoff game was 2003, his second year in the NBA. After making 42 of 88 shots in the first four games of the first-round series against Milwaukee, he is 30-for-96 in the past six games. He would not blame the right thumb that he sprained near the end of the regular season for his shooting.”
  • Jordan Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Let’s start with the obvious: The Orlando Magic are better. They have a center. They have a point guard. They have a roster of players with complete sets of working organs, and isn’t that a novelty? But sometimes things happen in sports that make you declare, “Push the button and blow the whole damn thing up.” This was one of them. In a home playoff game, in an obvious desperation game, in a game where the Hawks had an opportunity to show us what substance they were made of, they collectively screamed, “Goo.” They didn’t score. They didn’t defend. They didn’t rebound. They didn’t compete. We saw better performances when bodies were being jettisoned and the roster was all about 10-day contracts and cap space.”
  • Frank Hughes of Sports Illustrated: “The Magic certainly possess the look of a team that can compete for a championship. The question that must be asked is whether the Magic have played that well or have their competition been that weak? Probably a little bit of both, but there is no doubt that their interior-exterior attack is clicking perfectly. Dwight Howard seemed virtually non-existent in this game, in part because he picked up two early fouls, and still ended up with 21 points and 16 rebounds. His teammates combined for 10 3-pointers and probably could have had many more had the outcome not been decided by halftime. As the Cavaliers and Celtics hammer each other in the other Eastern Conference series, the Magic conceivably could get a week of rest if they are able to close out this series Monday night.”
  • Benson Taylor of The Baseline: “Another dominating performance by Orlando. Either the Cavs or the Celtics, whoever wins the other East semifinal, might shudder when they watch the video of what the Magic have been doing against the Hawks. That’s also assuming, of course, that the Magic win this series, which is now a mere formality after taking a 3-0 second-round lead.”
  • Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “After blowing out the Atlanta Hawks for the second time in three games, the Orlando Magic now finds itself a win away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals unbeaten. Given the way Atlanta competed in what was essentially a must-win game–as ESPN has been happy to remind us the last two nights, NBA teams are 0-88 in best-of-seven history when falling behind in the series 3-0–the chances of Orlando making it back-to-back sweeps look awfully good. In sum, it’s hard to tell what has been the defining story of this series–how poorly the Hawks have played outside of the first half of Game Two or how well the Magic is playing. In this case, given the lopsided nature of the games, I think it is possible that both are accurate descriptions.”
  • Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “Crawford, who won the NBA’s Sixth Man Award, led the Hawks with 22 points, but the tone already was set before he entered the game late in the first quarter. There was no high-energy, revved-up emotional charge that was expected at the start. From Atlanta’s perspective, it felt more like one of 82 regular season games. The Hawks, No. 3 seed in the East, came into this series after a surprisingly competitive seven-game series against a mediocre Milwaukee team. They have lost to Orlando by 43, 14 and 30 points. They could lose Game 4 on Monday by 50.”
  • John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk: “Nothing went right for the Hawks. The team shot 35% from the field and 4-15 from beyond the arc. No Hawks player shot better than 50% from the field. Joe Johnson was absolutely abysmal, going 3-15 from the field. The Hawks recorded nine total assists all game. The Magic outrebounded the Hawks 51-34. Faced with the pressure of a 2-0 deficit and the task of scoring against the Magic’s dominant defense, Atlanta completely folded. A miserable performance, and one that could leave a sour taste in Hawks fans’ mouths all summer if they don’t manage to compete in game four.”
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