Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 245

May 04

Sneak Preview: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic, Game 1

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic SF Mickael Pietrus — to no one’s surprise — said after Monday’s practice that he would play tonight in the playoff opener against the Atlanta Hawks. “Yes, I’m playing,” he said. Pietrus sprained his left ankle during Sunday’s practice, walked out of the trainer’s room in a protective boot and said afterward that he “didn’t know” if he could play. He left RDV Sportsplex on Monday, walking to his car in bare feet. Pietrus has misled the media before about the severity of injuries. “I’m like a snake,” Pietrus said, apparently meaning that a snake can still wiggle after its head is cut off.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “[Dwight] Howard averaged 21.0 points, 16.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game against the Hawks during the regular season. He also recorded double-doubles in points and rebounds in 11 of the teams’ last 12 regular-season games; the lone exception came this past January in a blowout Orlando victory in which Howard played less than half the game. Hawks coach Mike Woodson insisted that he won’t make up his mind whether to defend Howard one-on-one or double-team Howard until gameday. Atlanta tried both approaches during the regular season. Woodson likes to double-team Howard when his all-star center Al Horford is in the game, because that tactic helps Horford stay out of foul trouble. Woodson sometimes elects to defend Howard one-on-one, especially when Atlanta backup center Zaza Pachulia is on the floor.”
  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The local consensus has long been that Orlando is the one team the Hawks cannot handle, and on the record that has been true. The [Orlando] Magic won six consecutive meetings over the past two seasons; indeed, the Hawks went more than a calendar year — from Oct. 28, 2008 to March 24, 2010 — without beating their Southeast Division cousin. But Orlando is tough on everybody (Cleveland most notably), and if you look hard you’ll see the Hawks have a puncher’s chance. [...] My first inclination was to take Magic in six, but something about this matchup leads me to think it’ll go the distance. And where would the weight of expectation in such a Game 7 fall? Not on the Hawks. The Milwaukee series was strange: The Hawks went from too loose to too tight to almost gone. But they made it through, and they see real opportunity in Round 2. So do I. Hawks in seven.”
  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The video and statistical evidence, accumulated by Synergy Sports Technology, seems to support a varied approach. In the four games against the Hawks, Howard attempted to score 34 times on post-ups against Horford. The Hawks sent a second defender before Howard made his move on 10 of those possessions. When Howard was alone vs. Horford, the Magic center scored 16 points on 24 possessions (five field goals and six free throws). Howard turned the ball over four times. That’s excellent defense by Horford, but it’s even better when he gets help. The Hawks forced nine turnovers on those 10 possessions (Howard scored the one time he got off a shot). This goes to explain why Woodson said that, while he’s tempted to let Horford handle Howard on his own, the success of the double team makes him hesitant to try. But sending a second defender can leave the Hawks vulnerable on the perimeter against one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league. That’s a worry for the Hawks, who’ve been inconsistent all season with closing out on shooters.”

May 03

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Center Jason Collins played a total of only 3 minutes, 39 seconds in the Atlanta Hawks’ first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. But to hear Hawks coach Mike Woodson tell it, that could change when the Hawks face the Orlando Magic in the teams’ upcoming Eastern Conference semifinal series. In fact, the Hawks could take a page from the Charlotte Bobcats’ game plan. In the first round, the Bobcats employed three different centers — and those centers’ 18 available personal fouls – and forced Howard to the bench because of foul trouble in each game. Woodson said Collins will see some playing time backing up Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia.”
  • Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel shares the news that Mickael Pietrus will suit up and play in Game 1.
  • ESPN’s Jalen Rose calls the Orlando Magic the best team in the playoffs but with a caveat.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said that nothing that the Hawks do in the series will surprise Orlando, but he fully expects Atlanta to use 6-foot-7 guard Joe Johnson on Jameer Nelson at times in the series. Nelson was Orlando’s most consistent player against Charlotte, averaging 23.8 points and 4.5 assists while carving up Raymond Felton and the Bobcats. The Magic expect that Atlanta will use point guards Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford on Matt Barnes and [Mickael] Pietrus, while small forward Marvin Williams will check Carter. The matchup that favors Orlando the most is the one that involves Howard against Atlanta big men Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia. [Dwight] Howard averaged 21 points, 16.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in four games this season against the Hawks this season while shooting 55.1 percent.”
  • The Magic’s #1 target on defense is going to be Joe Johnson.
  • Dwight Howard and head coach Stan Van Gundy chime in on the MVP voting.
  • Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference likes Orlando to win their series against the Atlanta Hawks in 5 games.
  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel thinks that the Magic will make quick work of the Hawks in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. The stat geeks agree.

  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider: “I’m trying to come up with a statistical indicator to favor Atlanta, and I’m drawing a blank. Orlando has home-court advantage, led the NBA in point differential and crushed Charlotte in four games in the first round despite having “Foul On You” nailed to the bench for all but 26.5 minutes a game. Meanwhile, the Hawks did little to encourage supporters by struggling past an injury-depleted Milwaukee squad in Round 1. Moreover, the head-to-head history over the past two years is pretty one-sided. Atlanta won at Orlando on opening day of the 2008-09 season by 14 points, but since then it has been all Orlando. The Magic have won six of the past seven games, including wins by 17, 18, 32 and 34. Atlanta’s only win in that span was by two points at the buzzer.”
  • Vince Carter reminisces on his dunk on 7’2” Frederic Weis in the 2000 Summer Olympics: “That was probably one of the proudest moments of my life when I did that. It’s something that you just can’t duplicate. I tell you once it happened, like a month after the Olympics, having a conversation with my buddies, I tried to jump over a guy who is 6′5″. Now Frederic Weis is 7′1″, or something like that – who’s counting? He’ might of been 7′2″, but whatever. My buddy is 6′5″. I tried to jump over him. I almost hurt him and myself at the same time. So the moon and stars must have been aligned correctly at the same time for me to do that. But, hey, whatever.”
  • Zach Lowe of Off the Dribble tackles the adjusted plus/minus issue in the NBA: “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology IT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is regarded as a gathering of like-minded sports dorks pushing basketball statistics away from traditional measures, such as points and assists, and toward more advanced measures, including hockey-style plus/minus. But at this year’s conference in March a debate continued over whether plus/minus is relevant when evaluating individual players in basketball. Some critics contend it might work better in measuring the effectiveness of five-man lineups.”

May 03

Interview with Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post, Part II

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

No introduction necessary.

A few days ago, I was able to ask Rock a few questions to preview the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks.

Do you foresee Jameer Nelson having his way on offense in his matchup with Mike Bibby as he did against Raymond Felton?

I’ll put it this way: [Jameer] Nelson might not stay as hot as he was against Charlotte, but if there’s any defender who can help keep him hot, it’s Mike Bibby. The Hawks switch every screen, and have for years under coach Mike Woodson, which helps hide Bibby’s poor D somewhat. But Nelson likely won’t need any screens to get to where he wants on the floor against Bibby. I expect him to do more driving and less three-point bombing against the Hawks.

Read the rest of this entry »

May 03

Interview with Bret LaGree of Hoopinion

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Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Hoopinion is known by many around the blogosphere for the past few years as an excellent site that covers the Atlanta Hawks, authored by Bret LaGree. But what people may not know is that LaGree has produced a playwright before, titled “Guyworld” … talk about writing versatility! In any case, if you’re ever in need an educated take or the latest scoop on the Hawks, Hoopinion is the place to go. LaGree drops knowledge, without a doubt.

A few days ago, I was able to ask LaGree a few questions to preview the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks.

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Some people have stated that the Atlanta Hawks’ performance in the first round revealed more questions than answers, most notably concerning the team’s inconsistency, head coach Mike Woodson’s coaching acumen, etc. Do you agree or disagree with that statement and why?

Perimeter defense, defensive rebounding, predictability in the half-court (both offensively and defensively) which can be exploited down the stretch of close games, an inability to get to the free throw line, and a lack of depth have all been problems for the Hawks for years but little of that has really taken root in the national consciousness. I suspect that it’s rare that the team who averages the fourth-fewest possessions per game in the league is commonly perceived and frequently described as a devastating transition team.

So, yes, making adjustments isn’t Mike Woodson’s strength (nor does his roster give him a lot of options; granted, some of that is his own doing), and, yes, you’d think that by being a former Larry Brown assistant Woodson would be a good defensive coach but the Hawks have never been a good defensive team under him, and, yes, the Hawks look great when they get out and run but they can’t do that consistently because they don’t rebound enough of the misses they force and, when that happens, they become over-reliant on jump shots created within a half-court system that prizes dribbling over ball and player movement. I don’t think anything that was revealed in the Milwaukee series was news to Hawks fans but the some common misconceptions casual or infrequent viewers of the team were dispelled.

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May 02

Sunday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “The Orlando Magic will be facing yet another Southeast Division rival in the playoffs after the Atlanta Hawks emerged from their first-round series on Sunday. The second-seeded Magic will face the third-seeded Hawks in second-round play beginning Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Amway Arena. The Hawks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 95-74 on Sunday in a Game 7 for the right to face Orlando. The Magic beat the Charlotte Bobcats 4-0 in the first round for the first four-game sweep in franchise history. By virtue of that sweep and Atlanta being pushed to seven games by the Bucks, the Magic will have had eight days off by Tuesday, while the Hawks will be forced to board a plane to Orlando on Monday afternoon.”
  • Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel notes that there are still tickets available for Games 1 and 2.
  • Dwight Howard finished fourth in the MVP voting: “Looks like the Magic’s campaign to get Howard some MVP consideration worked on a few voters at least. Out of 123 possible votes, 122 from the media and one from a collective fan vote, Howard was in the top five of 111 ballots. He received three first-place votes, 27 second-place, 30 third-place, 29 fourth-place and 22 fifth-place votes for a total of 478 points. James won the award in a landslide for the second consecutive year. He received 116 first-place votes, five second-place votes and two third-place votes for 1,205 points.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie questions the Atlanta Hawks: “The biggest question, beyond Atlanta’s consistent inconsistent, remains only partially answered. Will Mike Woodson realize that he has admirable depth on his team? Depth not named “Maurice Evans,” mind you, because Mike loves him some Mo Evans. Beyond Crawford, Atlanta’s bench usually doesn’t get much time to make an impact. But starting in Game 6, Zaza Pachulia came off the bench to make Ersan Ilyasova’s (the Game 5 hero) life a living hell on the glass. Joe Smith can still play, Jeff Teague could at least help in defending in transition or getting teams into sets when Mike Bibby isn’t hitting, and Mario West should be more than a bit player when Marvin Williams isn’t helping.”
  • UPDATE: Mickael Pietrus sprained his left ankle during practice and it is unsure if he’ll be able to play on Tuesday.

May 02

Orlando Magic Updated Eastern Conference Semifinal Schedule vs. Atlanta

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Via the Orlando Magic:

The National Basketball Association has announced the schedule for the Orlando Magic’s Eastern Conference Semifinals best-of-seven playoff series vs. Atlanta.

Orlando vs. Atlanta Eastern Conference Semifinals Series Schedule

  • Game 1 – Tuesday, May 4, 8 p.m., at Orlando (Amway Arena), TNT TV
  • Game 2 – Thursday, May 6, 8 p.m., at Orlando (Amway Arena), ESPN TV
  • Game 3 – Saturday, May 8, 5 p.m., at Atlanta, ESPN TV
  • Game 4 – Monday, May 10, 8 p.m., at Atlanta, TNT TV
  • Game 5 – Wednesday, May 12, Time TBD, at Orlando (Amway Arena), TNT TV, if necessary
  • Game 6 – Friday, May 14, Time TBD, at Atlanta, ESPN TV, if necessary
  • Game 7 – Sunday, May 16, Time TBD, at Orlando (Amway Arena), TV TBD, if necessary

*All Times Eastern

*All games on Magic Radio Network (Flagship: AM 580 WDBO) and in Spanish (AM 1030 WONQ).

*All conference semifinal games are exclusive national telecasts.

May 02

Something To Pass the Time

Apr 30

Orlando Magic Eastern Conference Semifinals Playoff Schedule Announced

Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Via the Orlando Magic:

The National Basketball Association has announced the schedule for the Orlando Magic’s Eastern Conference Semifinals best-of-seven playoff series vs. either Atlanta or Milwaukee. Atlanta and Milwaukee are tied 3-3 in its best-of-seven first round series with Game 7 scheduled for Sunday. The winner will meet the Magic beginning Tuesday night (8 p.m.), May 4, in Orlando.

Orlando vs. Atlanta or Milwaukee Eastern Conference Semifinals Series Schedule

  • Game 1 – Tuesday, May 4, 8 p.m., at Orlando (Amway Arena), TNT TV
  • Game 2 – Thursday, May 6, 8 p.m., at Orlando (Amway Arena), ESPN TV
  • Game 3 – Saturday, May 8, Time TBD, at Atlanta or Milwaukee, TV TBD
  • Game 4 – Monday, May 10, Time TBD, at Atlanta or Milwaukee, TNT TV
  • Game 5 – Wednesday, May 12, Time TBD, at Orlando (Amway Arena), TNT TV, if necessary
  • Game 6 – Friday, May 14, Time TBD, at Atlanta or Milwaukee, ESPN TV, if necessary
  • Game 7 – Sunday, May 16, Time TBD, at Orlando (Amway Arena), TV TBD, if necessary

*All Times Eastern

*All games on Magic Radio Network (Flagship: AM 580 WDBO) and in Spanish (AM 1030 WONQ).

*All conference semifinal games are exclusive national telecasts.

Apr 30

The Wait Continues

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Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

After the Atlanta Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks by the score of 83-69 to extend the series to seven games, good news and bad news accompanied the result for the Orlando Magic.

The good news is that the Magic now know they will begin the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday at Amway Arena.

The bad news is that Orlando won’t find out who they’re playing until Sunday, which means the coaches and players will have a minimal amount of time to prepare for their opponent (granted, the same issue applies to the Bucks and the Hawks). Oh, and then there’s the whole rest thing. The Magic will be waiting eight days before they play again, which shouldn’t be a problem but who knows.

That’s why they play the games.

Apr 30

Friday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “[Marcin] Gortat’s proudest moment in the NBA came last Saturday in Game 3 in Charlotte when he filled in for [Dwight] Howard down the stretch and then sealed the game with two clutch free throws. He was shocked when good friend J.J. Redick in-bounded the ball to him with 12 seconds to go, but he collected himself enough to bury the game-winning free throws. He literally made himself into a solid player with his tireless work before and after practices and games, and it came through with Gortat on the line in Game 3. “When I was standing over there on the free throw line I just told myself, ‘It’s fine. Just do the same thing that I do every day before the practice and after the practice,'” Gortat said with a chuckle. “It was just like I was standing with one of the guys from the office, in an empty gym working on my game.” Gortat said that as much as he’s longed for a greater role the past two seasons, winning a title with the [Orlando] Magic would make it all so worth it. He already holds the distinction of being just the third NBA player ever from Poland and signing that $34 million contract last summer set him up financially for the rest of his life. But Gortat dreams now of how a championship would alter his life.”
  • Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel has more on Gortat.
  • Happy birthday, Brandon Bass!
  • Words of wisdom from general manager Otis Smith in response to Howard’s complaints about the officials: “Howard was limited to just 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds, dramatically fewer than the 18.3 and 13.2 he averaged during the regular season. Smith, who was once a no-nonsense player, has been a no-nonsense general manager. He criticized his star player instead of criticizing officials. ‘Officials are human. They make mistakes, sometimes in your favor, sometimes in the other team’s favor. But it all balances out,’ he said. ‘Just play basketball, and stop worrying about the calls. Are you going to get some bad calls? Sure. Are you going to get some good ones? Sure. Those people running around in stripes are just like me — the more you yell at them, the worse they get. If you smile a little bit more, and you talk to them, you may get one.’ A few of Howard’s fouls in the opening round were foolish fouls when he should have shown more restraint. Others came when he was wrestling in the lane with one of the three Charlotte centers who were more interested in aggravating him than making basketball plays. ‘He needs to be on the floor longer than 28 minutes. That’s not on the officials. That’s not on Stan. That’s on Dwight. Life’s tough. You’re a big guy. Sorry. Move on.’ Howard struggled with foul trouble early in the playoffs last season, too. Like many stars in the game today, though, he rarely admits to a personal foul against him, complaining to officials when calls don’t go in his favor. And that’s not something Smith likes. Howard still believes he doesn’t get the ‘star calls,’ that others like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant often receive. ‘I don’t buy into that concept at all. Zero. I think over the course of a 48-minute game, it all comes back around,’ Smith said. ‘This time of year, the officials do a pretty good job. We’ve got another round of this, and it’s going to be just the same. He needs to be on the floor longer than 28 minutes. That’s not on the officials. That’s not on Stan. That’s on Dwight. Life’s tough. You’re a big guy. Sorry. Move on.’ ”
  • Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie: “I’m with Otis, even though I’m not quite sure Dwight is capable of smiling any more than he already does. He’s a big guy and refs have a hard time calling games for people that huge. Any time Dwight touches another player, that dude goes flying and it looks like a foul. The whistle blows and more often than not, the guy on the floor is getting the call. That’s one of the prices you pay for having shoulders the size of human heads. All that being said, if there is some way we can get Dwight Howard to smile even more, I’m all for it. Happiness is contagious, y’all.”
  • John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk chimes in on Smith’s comments.
  • Howard is excited to get back to work.
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