- 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 Lewis, Mickael 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.”
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.
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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
In a game that was rather uneventful from the opening tip, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Atlanta Hawks by the score of 105-75 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Magic were led by an excellent performance from Rashard Lewis, who had 22 points and five rebounds. Dwight Howard finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Jameer Nelson and Matt Barnes chipped in with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Jamal Crawford led the way for the Hawks, with 22 points.
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “One thing [Orlando] Magic coach Stan Van Gundy likes about his team is that their success will depend not on whether or not they put forth the right amount of effort each night or other intangibles. “These guys have been great,” Van Gundy said. “They enjoy playing together. They play well together. They trust each other. … I’ve got a lot of confidence in this team that it’ll just come down to how well we play. It won’t be chemistry problems, it won’t be lack of professionalism. It’ll come down to how we play.” Van Gundy said the kind of balanced scoring the Magic displayed in Thursday night’s Game 2 — when four players scored more than 20 points — is consistent with how the team has played all season. Often, though, rather than four players with more than 20 points, the Magic have six or seven players in double-figures.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Nothing else has distracted Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, so the Atlanta Hawks might need help from their unspoken home-court advantage today for Game 3. The ATL will certainly accommodate the Magic if they want to party early. The Magic will spend three nights in the city, a legendary NBA hot-spot. […] The Magic say they aren’t about to fall to Atlanta’s reputation, even with a 2-0 lead in the playoff series. The club’s security detail is on alert because Howard, a graduate of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, is returning home. Other than that, the team is looking at it as a business trip.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Dwight Howard has played in his childhood home of Atlanta 12 times in his six-year NBA career, and at times it proved to be more of a challenge than a luxury. The demand for tickets and the tugs on his time proved to be a challenge early on in Howard’s career when he was still a teenager. And, of course, there were the times when Howard felt the urge to take over games and put on a show for his family and friends. But as Howard heads back to Atlanta now for his first-ever playoff series in his hometown, clearly the 24-year-old consensus All-NBA pick has learned a few tricks of the trade about thriving in his old stomping grounds. “My phone is turned off, both of them, so people are going to have to scream through the TV to talk to me while I’m in Atlanta,” Howard said with a chuckle about how he plans on handling the off-court distractions.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “They were good for one quarter in Orlando, then three quarters, and now the Hawks are back at Philips Arena. The Hawks say they are trending upward. The progression didn’t translate into a victory in Orlando during the first two games of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals. It almost has to mean a victory in Game 3 on Saturday: No NBA team has overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series. And though the Hawks were dominant at home in the regular season, the Magic have been playing at an elite level for more than two months.”
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Hawks led the Magic by two points after 35 minutes and 59 seconds here Thursday night. They trailed by 19 points barely eight minutes later. The visitors had gotten almost everything they could have hoped from the first three quarters, and yet, once again, they weren’t close at the end. There was about Game 2 a sensation of a best shot having been delivered and parried — a chilling thought. Asked if that was his impression, Josh Smith said: “There’s a better shot still to come. We have to play the full 48.” Maybe those long-awaited 48 minutes will come at Philips Arena on Saturday. If not, that’s it for this season. The team that won 53 games is down to its last real chance.”