Blog Entry

Series Reset Hawks-Magic: The art of Smoove

Posted on: April 22, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 2:52 pm
The series the public forgot shifts back to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4 tied. We reset the series and wonder about J-Smoove, Horford, J.J. and more. 
Posted by Matt Moore

The Narrative: Is there something to be said for the Hawks losing Game 2 in a close one, despite playing terribly? Is there something to be said for Orlando winning despite not shooting well? Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Dwight Howard dominated in the first two games for the Magic but they were solidly beaten in one game and squeaked it out? Can Atlanta hope for their mediocre shooting to improve, or is this who they are, and Game 1 was a deviation? 

We don't really know the answers to all that at this point. Magic fans are banking on Atlanta shooting like they did in Game 2 while Orlando's offense opens up like a flower in bloom. Hawks fans are banking on the shooting returning to an even decent level while their defense continues to hold everyone not named Howard in check. It's ridiculously simple, actually. The Hawks' matchup advantages counter Orlando's star power. So it comes down to shooting. The Hawks can beat the Magic shooting a percentage over what Atlanta usually holds teams to, but can't if they continue to sit in the freezer. The Magic can regain the series advantage by shooting somewhat close to what they usually do as long as Orlando can hit water from a boat. 

It really does just come down to making shots. 

The Hook: Josh Smith can do what he wants. He really can. Brandon Bass has no shot at guarding him. Ryan Anderson has no shot at guarding him. Hedo Turkoglu did a good job for a long stretch in the second half of Game 2, but in reality, again, Smith has the advantage. The only thing that can stop Josh Smith, really, is himself. In Game 1 he took two 3-pointers. In Game 2, he took four. This isn't a big differential, except that every shot Smith takes from the perimeter is one more he's not taking inside or at the rim. Smith has taken considerable leaps to tone down his penchant for perimeter shooting, but when he drifts back into that, the Hawks lose a valuable weapon.

Here's a look at Smith's possessions in Game 1 vs. Game 2, via Synergy Sports. 

Josh Smith possessions Game 1 Game 2
Post-Up 4 3
Transition 2 2
Pick and Roll 2 2
Spot-Up 3 6
ISO 3 1

Now, Smith's probably the only Hawk you can look at and say, "Man, that guy should really go ISO one one one. The Hawks are an ISO factory. But Smith's one of the only ones with a clear advantage man-up, physically. Most concerning though, is that big glaring "6" in the Spot-Up row for Game 2. If Josh Smith is shooting spot-up jumpers, there's something wrong with the world. Or the Hawks. More specifically, the Hawks. Another few possessions for the Hawks where Smith is aggressive, and they might be coming home with a 2-0 lead. Smith has to stay aggressive or the Hawks are going back into the offensive swamp again. 

The Adjustment: Head coach Larry Drew got blasted by just about everyone for benching Al Horford for almost the entire first half after he picked up early foul trouble. Don't get me wrong, that was a terrible decision, but Horford just didn't have it in that game. He didn't shoot well, and struggled even to overcome Brandon Bass in the post. This isn't to say Drew was correct, he wasn't. But Drew has bigger issues than just Horford's minutes. He needs to get a strategy for defending Dwight Howard and stick to it. Jason Collins finished with three fouls. Zaza Pachulia finished with four. Hilton Armstrong with two. Al Horford with two. The idea of making Dwight Howard beat you by his lonesome isn't a bad strategy. It's actually a pretty good one. But it's got to be done using the line. If two of those four players don't foul out by the end of the game, Drew has coached badly. Howard's a terrible free throw shooter. If they're not going to double on him to contain him, they have to at least make him work at the weakest part of his game to beat them. 

The X-Factor: J.J. Redick hasn't shot well as he recovers from injury. That's going to change at some point. If not him, then Chris Duhon. If not either of those players, then Gilbert Arenas, should he see the floor. One of the Magic's guards has to get warm at some point, and they need to have their trigger fingers ready. The Hawks have been running off the 3-point shot well in this series and the Magic seem to have no interest in making the extra pass. If they get the ball, the guards need to shoot. 

The biggest reason the Magic need this is to counter Jamal Crawford. The Magic can't keep getting blasted by Crawford and Johnson with no significant contributions outside of Jameer Nelson and possible Jason Richardson. There's got to be some effort to balance the scale, which puts more emphasis on Howard, which is what the Magic want. 

The Sticking Point: It's a counter-intuitive mismatch of offenses. The Hawks' ISO heavy weaponry against the Magic's one-pass-and-done kick-outs. The Hawks have to keep running off the three, while the Magic have to try and stick the Hawks' weapons on the perimeter. Everyone's laughing at the lack of ball movement by Atlanta, but the thing is, they're able to get those shots off against opponents who don't have a good capability of defending them. The Magic have been frozen from the arc, comparatively, but you have to believe those shots will eventually fall. How that tug of war ends up will decide the next two games in Atlanta. 

Since: May 16, 2007
Posted on: April 22, 2011 7:00 pm

Series Reset Hawks-Magic: The art of Smoove

I have to believe that between J. J. Redick, Gilbert Arenas, and Chris Duhon, someone will step up to help Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson.  They certainly have the capability, and we've seen it before.  For the Magic to get this series, this simply must happen for Orlando.  The Hawks are fairly balanced, and will be too much for Orlando to deal with if the Magic have to rely so heavily on Dwight Howard.  And it has to happen now. Orlando is already down one going into Atlanta and being down 3-1 going back to Orlando would not be a pretty picture for the Magic.  I'm thinking the team will respond and the Magic will get back into this series. They have the proven talent to accomplish this, and I fully expect them to get it done.  But Atlanta on the road is a formidable task.  The Magic need at least one win in the next two games to get this thing back on track.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 22, 2011 6:08 pm

Series Reset Hawks-Magic: The art of Smoove

Seems to me the Hawks have had a sound game plan for the first two games of their series with the Magic.  They are in better position in this series than most thought they would be in.  Now they get to play at home.  They almost won both of their first two, even while playing poorly in the second.  I really see very little to justify changing anything.  It's the Magic that should be concerned.  Atlanta has alot of weapons talent, while the Magic are way to reliant on Dwight Howard.  Howard has been known to slide into short offensive funks.  Who will step up if (when) this happens?  I don't see the options for them.  But even with a strong night from Howard, that by itself will not be enough either, if the Hawks just play a decent game.  The Magic are certainly facing a tough situation ahead of them.  I like the Hawks' chances to pull off this series.  I agree, somebody else simply must step up for the Magic if they are to have a chance to win this series.  Howard's a great player, but there is no way he can do this all by himself.

Since: Mar 6, 2011
Posted on: April 22, 2011 3:56 pm

Series Reset Hawks-Magic: The art of Smoove

Good points. Orlando has been underrated all season. But, that said, they need Arenas. HE has to come out of his terminal funk.......if thats possible. IF he does at all, AT ALL, he can make Orlando a very tough team in the playoffs.  If he doesnt, then at least Richardson has to step it up. And Richardson has the ability to do so.  Orlando figures to win this series in my mind. But, they have to have more offense than just Howard.  Atlanta cant really bang inside. And if Orlando dominates in the paint, then all they need, as the article points out, is one guy to get even a little bit hot.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or