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.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 1:14 pm
Gilbert Arenas can't save the Magic. But can the Magic save themselves?
Posted by Matt Moore
Gilbert Arenas was going to be the hero of Game 4 for the Magic. It was all there. Arenas scored 20 points off the bench on 9-18 shooting. The triumphant hero returns to save the day, and saving himself in the process. It really was all there. So even though the Magic lost that game, Arenas is going to get playing time in the next game after being DNP-CDs in the first two, right? According to SVG in the Orlando Sentinel, that's spot-on:
I'm not stupid!" Stan Van Gundy said after the Magic completed practice today.via Gilbert Arenas: Stan Van Gundy says Gilbert Arenas definitely will play in Game 5 - OrlandoSentinel.com.
No, SVG, you are not stupid. You may be desperate, though.
Arenas finished that magical game 1-5. He went to the layup off the pick and roll time after time, to his credit. But the Hawks' defense was also overreacting to Dwight Howard. Sure, if Arenas can continue to finish and get past the Hawks' defense, which will have Zaza Pachulia back, then maybe he can have a big game. But Arenas was also 1-3 from the perimeter. Gilbert Arenas isn't going to fix the Magic's perimeter shooting on his own, and unless that happens, the Magic are starting their vacation tonight. This isn't to say that the Hawks haven't had anything to do with the Magic's terrible perimeter shooting, they're running them off as well as a team can. Nor does it mean that a good shooting performance from the wings will automatically fix things and assure a win. But it has to be part of it.
More troubling, though, is the idea that Arenas can be the difference maker. He had a fine game. Maybe he has another one. But Arenas is never going to be the Agent Zero of old. Those days are gone, there's a tombstone that marks the era and everyone, Arenas included, has to move on. Arenas can be a competent role player, provide a spark, and help the Magic stave off elimination long enough to get the pressure back on Atlanta, a position that team is in no way ready to thrive in. That's all you can hope for.
The only thing that's saving the Magic is the Magic. They won as a team throughout this era of contention. The shipwrecked phrase, "Live together, die alone" comes to mind.
Tags: 2011 EC First Round, 2011 Hawks-Magic, 2011 Magic-Hawks, 2011 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, Hawks-Magic, Jameer Nelson, Jason Collins, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kirk Hinrich, Magic-Hawks, Marvin Williams, NBA Playoffs, Ryan Anderson. J.J. Redick
Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:14 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 12:39 am
Everything is going the Hawks' way as they take a 3-1 series lead over the Magic. Can Orlando hit water if they fell out of a boat?
Posted by Matt Moore
It could have been legendary. It would have been fitting if, in the same weekend Brandon Roy put up a "flashback" performance in a win over the Mavericks, Gilbert Arenas finally, successfully had an impact on the game. The problem? The Hawks are still that much better. Or, at least they are right now. And they've got the series advantage to prove it, moving within one game of advancing to the second round with a win over the Magic Sunday night.
Instead of reveling in the late-game heroics of Agent Zero, who was 9-18 for 20 points, we're left with the same pattern we've seen all series: Jamal Crawford getting it done.
Crawford will never get the kind of love Arenas earned with his antics and personality, but he's as fit as anyone in the playoffs of being labeled the modern "Hibachi." He scored 25 points Sunday night, and has averaged 24 in the playoffs on 47 percent shooting. What's stunning is his perimeter work. Check out his shot chart in the playoffs courtesy of NBA StatsCube:
Crawford is 4-4 from the corner. That's 12 points in a series in which the Hawks hold a 2.7 point differential. That's a pretty big deal. Crawford has been downright incredible in this series, even if you think his bank shot to win Game 3 was "lucky." The MVP of this series is going to be Crawford, but down the stretch, it wasn't Jamal making plays in Game 4. It was the man with The Contract, the much-derided, often-forgotten All-Star, Joe Johnson.
Johnson scored six points in the final 1:34, first with a runner, and then with clinching free throws. Sure, the free throws were gimmes. But when you absolutely have to have those free throws, no one remembers the guy that makes them, only the guy that misses. Johnson calmly knocked them down, and finished with 20 points on 15 shots and 9 rebounds. He had six turnovers and a wealth of wasted ISO possessions, but really, that's the Hawks. That's who they are. So beating them up on a night where they hustled, and pushed, and worked their way to a win over the higher-seeded team with the best player in the series, seems disingenuous. It'll still be done, but the Hawks worked for this one.
And the Magic? They just couldn't hit. The word panic is used in the playoffs too much. But there's no other word for what happened to their offense. Those drive and kick threes? They kept shooting, over and over again, trying to force one to rattle home in order to kickstart a flood that would never come. There's no rain in Atlanta in the spring. Or Orlando, apparently. The skies have been dry in this series and the drought reached "Grapes of Wrath" proportions Sunday night as the Magic shot ...
Wait for it...
2-23 from the arc.
The Orlando Magic, one of the best perimeter shooting teams over the past four years, shot 9 percent from 3-point range. Nine. It doesn't get worse than that. It can't possibly, can it? Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ryan Anderson combined to shoot 0-14. If that won't doom you, I don't know what will. The Hawks did their part, running off threes, contesting Dwight Howard inside, even without Zaza Pachulia, and getting contributions from Kirk Hinrich and Al Horford.
It wasn't pretty, and people are in love with trashing this series for its offense without recognizing the athletic defense being played on both sides. But, once again, the Hawks are a little sharper, a little stronger, a little smarter, and find a way. The series isn't over, with the Hawks up 3-1 headed back to Orlando. If the shooting percentages change, this series could get tied up in a hurry. But the Hawks have shown nothing but determination in this series so far, and everything seems to be going their way.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 5:10 pm
Posted by Royce Young
The Hawks and Magic have turned up the Heat a bit in their seven game series, most notably with the skirmish between Jason Richardson and Zaza Pachulia. Both are serving one-game suspensions for this headbutt/slapface fight.
Stan Van Gundy as he tends to do, added a little more fuel to the fire calling the Hawks a bunch of floppers, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“I like it when guys stand up and fight like men,” Van Gundy said Saturday. “I think that is what the game is all about. The one thing that frustrates me is all the flopping.”Van Gundy has long been on the flopping crusade mainly because that tactic is one of the top defensive moves in guarding Dwight Howard. Pachulia has used it already a number of times in the series and Van Gundy is tired of it.
I can't really argue with Van Gundy because I despise flopping. I think it cheapens the game. Trying to trick an official into calling a foul where one didn't exist just isn't basketball. It's acting. It's soccer. I don't like it.
But here's the thing: It's effective. Not only does it turn the ball over, but it also puts your team one closer to the bonus and an extra foul on the other team's player. If you pull it off, it's great for you. There's really no downside to it other than sometimes you open up a bit clearer path to the rim if you don't get the call.
I ask the league if there would ever be a consideration of adjusting flopping rules and the answer was that it's come up multiple times in Competition Committee meetings. Maybe if it's an obvious flop, the flopper would get the foul? A technical foul? Create a "flopping flagrant" that gives the team a free throw and the ball?
It's such a tough call to make anyway that nothing will likely ever be done. Which is why this won't be the last time Stan Van Gundy says something about it.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:29 am
Edited on: April 24, 2011 4:00 am
The Hawks have a 2-1 lead that feels dominant, despite needing a desperation 3-pointer to save Game 3. Without Jason Richardson or Zaza Pachulia, how does this series go forward?
Posted by Matt Moore
The Narrative: You want a classic must-win situation? Try the higher seed on the road, down 2-1, in a series where the other team has looked superior for 9 of 12 quarters. Try a team with major questions on both sides of the ball playing without their best wing player. Try a team trying to tie the series up when their biggest advantage -- their franchise center -- has had HUGE games, and they've still lost. Try a team reliant on their 3-point barrage desperately scrambling to find that shot. The Magic have no reason to panic ... as long as they win. If they lose, the good people in the Magic Kingdom will be slamming down that button so hard they'll break it.
The Hawks, considered an afterthought in these playoffs, have an opportunity to take a commanding lead in the series. It's a testament to their team effort on both sides of the ball, even as people continue to mock them (rightfully) for their reliance on ISO play. The Hawks have depth with Jamal Crawford. They have a shut-down point guard in Kirk Hinrich. There's a versatile All-Star who everyone just wants to mock for his contract in Joe Johnson. A versatile power forward who hasn't even tapped into his potential in Josh Smith. And then there's Al Horford ... arguably the second best center in the Eastern Conference. What's not to like? The Hawks have confidence and a chip on their shoulder. This game's as big for them as it is for Orlando.
The Hook: How do both teams react to the suspensions for Jason Richardson and Zaza Pachulia? Richardson is a starter, a bigger part of the offense. But Pachulia has been bigger in this series, doing the yeoman's work on Dwight Howard with some success, and bringing physicality and toughness to the Hawks. Pachulia will mix it up with anyone, and he backs down players who should be considered tougher than him. Without his six fouls, Dwight Howard could have another huge game. Quentin Richardson could step up and deliver. This could work out being a blessing in disguise for the Magic.
The Adjustment: Is Josh Smith going to figure it out? Hedo Turkoglu can't guard him. No one on the Magic can guard him. But he continues to settle for 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers. If Smith decides to commit to his game, which is physical, fast, and athletic, he can have a huge night that puts him on the NBA map. But, if he keeps settling for perimeter shots and spot-up jumpers, he'll face more of what happened at the end of Game 3, where coach Larry Drew benched him for the final possessions. No player in this series is failing to meet his potential as much as Josh Smith. When you consider the Hawks are up 2-0, that tells you a lot about how badly the Magic are playing.
The X-Factor: Quentin Richardson is a versatile veteran who can knock down big shots, defend, and has been hot lately, one of the few Magic players in that situation. With JRich out, QRich could step up and be a big difference maker. He fits in well with the Orlando system of catch-and-shoot, and has no hesitation in his jumper. Richardson is also a competent defender, and can help the Magic create turnovers. If he steps up, the Magic's perimeter attack could improve, and that shifts everything in this series. Conversely, if Richardson tries too hard and takes too much on himself, he can shoot them out of it. Marvin Williams better be prepared to play, as well as Josh Smith, when he's matched up on him.
The Sticking Point: The Hawks have committed more and more to playing Dwight Howard physically. Game 3 was the first game where it worked. Behind a surprisingly raucous crowd, the Hawks had things well in hand. Then, in the third quarter they opened the door again by seizing up. They let the Magic back in it and nearly lost, needing a desperation three from Jamal Crawford. A bank shot, at that.
The Hawks have soundly outplayed the Magic in this series, and yet, if it weren't for a desperation heave from Crawford, the Magic have the 2-1 lead. This series is close, it's physical, it's intense. It has some offensive hijinks on both sides, but it's also got periods of flawless execution. Game 3 was a battle, Game 4 could be a war.
Posted on: April 23, 2011 3:04 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 3:18 pm
Jason Richardson and Zaza Pachulia suspended for Game 4 Sunday in Hawks-Magic series.
Posted by Matt Moore
The NBA Saturday suspended both Jason Richardson and Zaza Pachulia for Game 4 of the Hawks-Magic playoff series Sunday in Atlanta. In the fourth quarter of Game 3, Pachulia became entangled with Dwight Howard, and swung an elbow to get him off. Richardson took umbrage, Pachulia then got into Richardson faced and headbutted him (slightly), drawing the suspension. Richardson then shoved Pachulia in the face, which is why he'll be missing Game 4's festivities. Good times all around. Here's video.
Pachulia's impact would seem to be the lesser, as he's a bench player with little offensive skill, and with the Hawks' depth at center. But as Kevin Pelton as Basketball Prospectus notes, Pachulia's impact overall may be greater.
The last two games, the Hawks have been more effective with Pachulia in the middle. During his 26 minutes of action on Friday, Atlanta was +7. Without Pachulia, Larry Drew will be forced to choose between putting Horford back at center and risking foul trouble or running out the sorry group of backup big men (Hilton Armstrong, Josh Powell and Etan Thomas) that Howard abused in Game One.via Basketball Prospectus | Playoff Prospectus: Winning Formula.
Richardson is the Magic's best perimeter scorer outside of Jameer Nelson, but along with the rest of the Magic, he's struggled in this series. He's shooting 27 percent from 3-point range in this series, and that's been particularly harmful to the Magic's offense. Without him, Quentin Richardson will likely get more time, and he's played well in the first three games for Orlando. This could be a blessing in disguise for the Magic if it lights a fire under the Mgic's perimeter offense.
Pachulia is the person you can most easily point to to disprove the "soft Euro" theory. Three years ago, he got into it with Kevin Garnett, and he's been known to start conflict with anyone who wants it. He's representative of the Hawks in this series. Willing to battle with anyone from the Magic who are looking for a fight.
Tags: 2011 EC First Round, 2011 Hawks-Magic, 2011 Magic-Hawks, 2011 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard, Hawks-Magic, Jameer Nelson, Jason Collins, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kirk Hinrich, Magic-Hawks, Marvin Williams, NBA Playoffs, Ryan Anderson. J.J. Redick, suspensions
Posted on: April 23, 2011 12:32 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 12:49 am
The Hawks and Magic walked into a bar fight. One team walked out up 2-1.
Posted by Matt Moore
By hook or by crook, the Hawks keep figuring out a way. A way to beat the Magic's perimeter offense, a way to not let their disjointed, overly simplistic one-on-one offense beat itself, a way to maintain the advantage over a team that looked ready to contend for a title as recently as this time last year. Hawks 88 Magic 84. Hawks now have a 2-1 lead in the series.
And, again, it was a tight, highly contested game featuring some good basketball, some bad basketball, and some theatrics. Oh, and a fight. Those are good, too. While the basketball world was focused on the trampling of the Knicks at the Garden, the Hawks and Magic played a pretty fun game, excepting a third quarter which saw the Hawks post 15 points. It was an exceptionally tight game. The Hawks hit three more field goals, but shot .5 percent points worse than the Magic. Neither team had a clear advantage at the free throw line, 21-19 Magic. Assists, turnovers, rebounds, steals, personal fouls ... all within 3 of one another.
In the end, the Magic got back into the game, after being down nine at the half, by their tested formula. They played exceptional defense, conning the Hawks into Atlanta's favorite mistake: long contested jumper after long contested jumper. Meanwhile, the Magic raced to the other end of the floor, set the post with Dwight Howard, then kicked it out to create 3-point attempts. They fell for a while. Then they didn't.
The Hawks should have won this game by more. Al Horford began the game as a man on fire, and set the tone. Horford outright bulldozed his way inside, taking Ryan Anderson in the post and working him over like it was a boxing match. Horford finished with 13 points on 6-14 shooting and seven rebounds, but on top of his aggressive play -- which lit a fire under the Hawks early -- he also nailed a decent mid-range jumper in the closing minutes to answer a similar Brandon Bass shot.
Zaza Pachulia's hard foul on Dwight Howard, Howard's subsequent retaliation, Richardson's confrontation, Pachulia's headbutt and Richardson's slap to the face (seriously, all this happened in about ten seconds, check it out) will have big implications on this series going forward. But the fight, in itself, represented what's gone on through three games. The Hawks have been slaughtered by Howard on the glass, but have been more aggressive, more physical and more determined. That tough, gritty approach that everyone promotes in playoff play? The Hawks have it. The Magic are lacking, and are looking to kickstart their offense with 3-pointers. Don't get it wrong, the Hawks relied much more on contested mid-range shots than the Magic, but the Hawks also outscored the Magic in the paint.
The Magic have the best center in the game. And the Hawks outscored them 36-34 in the paint. Not exactly a huge gap, but, with Howard, the Magic should always win points in the paint in this series. The Hawks did make a concerted effort to attack, though. And, sometimes, that was enough to get it done. Joe Johnson wasn't efficient, but he was effective. Jamal Crawford wasn't keyed in, but he got the job done. The Hawks, as they have in all three games this series, looked a step ahead. In Game 2, the shots didn't fall. In Game 3, they fell enough to give themselves a chance to win.
A solid bank shot (don't call it luck) did the rest.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 11:13 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 11:16 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Jamal Crawford seems to have knack for exactly these type of shots. He said it immediately after the game in a sideline interview that he likes the pull-up 3 in crunch time. And that's what he was looking for all the way.
Except I'm sure he didn't picture it going in the way it did.
Crawford banked home a 3 with 5.7 seconds left to put the Hawks up 88-84 and seal a 2-1 series lead over the Magic. It was a game the Hawks led mostly throughout, even by as many as 14, only to blow the lead with really horrific offensive execution in the second half. But the Hawks found just enough offense from just enough people. Example: Crawford banking in a freaking 3 to ice the game.
There's a lot of fight in these Hawks (and I don't mean that literally, i.e. Zaza Pachulia). They were entirely run over by the Magic last postseason but have taken complete control of the series. Atlanta found just enough points late and in the playoffs, you take a banked 3 all day every day. It still counts the same regardless.
The series isn't over, but Crawford's 3 definitely tilts things Atlanta's way. Up 2-1 with another game at home means the Hawks are guaranteed a Game 6 in their building. Time is running out and the pressure is building for the Magic. Dwight Howard won't be excited about a first-round exit. Backs to the wall now, Orlando has to respond.
Tags: 2011 EC First Round, 2011 Hawks-Magic, 2011 Magic-Hawks, 2011 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard, Hawks-Magic, Jameer Nelson, Jason Collins, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kirk Hinrich, Magic-Hawks, Marvin Williams, NBA Playoffs, Ryan Anderson. J.J. Redick, Video