Blog Entry

NBA Playoffs: Magic open floodgates to stay alive

Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:03 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 10:26 pm
Magic break open the 3-goggles and rout the Hawks. Are they back in this thing? 
Posting by Matt Moore

When you think about it, two things really were inevitable. The Orlando Magic were going to start hitting threes. And the Atlanta Hawks were going to return to the basketball primordial ooze from whence they came. Both things happened Tuesday night as the Magic staved off elimination to make the series 3-2. 

For four games, the story was the same. The Hawks were just getting by the Magic, and working their tails off to defend the 3-pointer. The Magic, in uncharacteristic fashion, could not hit water at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Granted, the Magic only shot 22 percent from 3-point range against the Hawks in the regular season, versus 21 percent in the playoffs, but the dropoff still felt "Thelma and Louise" like. (With Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson behind the wheel in wigs and makeup.)

Conversely, the Hawks were actually managing to function pretty well despite their terrible ISO-heavy offense. It was one of those situations where a team was fighting mostly with themselves and the Hawks were just managing to stay above water. When the offense was bad, it was terrible, but it was still producing some points. When it was good, it was pretty good. 

But in Game 5, all that changed. The Magic hit more 3-pointers in the first quarter than they hit in all of Game 4. The Hawks went back to dispirited, disinterested, disjointed, uncommunicative play on both ends. All the sloppy pull-up jumpers, none of the effectiveness. Essentially, the Magic came out of the tunnel, hit them with a shovel, and the Hawks laid on the ground and said "I'm good, thanks." 

The Hawks could afford to have a game like they had with the 3-1 lead. The Magic could not afford to not have a game like they had down 3-1. They had to get back to what they do well. Defend like mad, all over, not just with Dwight Howard, but on the wing, forcing the pull-up jumpers. On offense, they had to start knocking down open threes. Meanwhile Atlanta got back to what made them the laughingstock fifth seed. No effort, no cohesion, no adjustments. All series long it's felt like the Hawks were beating the Magic despite Larry Drew, not because of him, and this game made it seem like they couldn't overcome their coach's drag. 

So the floodgates opened, and the Magic got a laugher in front of the home crowd. Will they stay open? If they do, the Magic can very easily get back into this series for real with a win in Game 6 in Atlanta, forcing the Hawks to crumble. If the Hawks remember how to play basketball in Game 6, on either end, this game will be nothing more than a mercy gimme. 

One final note. Dwight Howard had eight points and eight rebounds, and the Magic won by over 20 points. That probably means nothing. But compared to the first four games of the series, it's certainly interesting that the one game in which the Magic don't rely on Howard to light the way, they play their most dominant ball of the playoffs. Strange, but interesting. 

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:41 pm

NBA Playoffs: Magic open floodgates to stay alive

I'm really glad to see the Magic bounce back like this in such a pivotal game in this series with the Hawks.  Things seemed much more in order tonight.  The Hawks looked more like the Hawks we've known all year. And the Magic looked more like the Magic should look.  This is how I certainly expected these two teams to play before the series began.  The only thing that really surprised me in this game is how well the Magic played without a huge contribution from Dwight Howard.  I think this really speaks to how good the Magic can be.  And the key words in that last sentemce are "can be."  The Magic need to turn those two words into "are."  They have the ability, but maybe the motivation is missing.  Anyway, this obviously makes game six in this series the key game of the seven.  If Atlanta can pull it off, well it's over.  But if Orlando can figure out how to win that road game, I think they are the team to advance.  Perhaps a newly found confidence with tonight's win can propel this team to the win so desperately needed.  Clearly, this was a different Magic team than we have seen so far in the playoffs.  I still like Orlando in this series.

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