Tag:Magic-Hawks
Posted on: April 23, 2011 3:04 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Pachulia, Richardson suspended for Game 4

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. 
Posted on: April 23, 2011 12:32 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 12:49 am
 

NBA Playoffs Hawks-Magic: Tough enough

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. 

Pause. 

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
 

Video: Jamal Crawford finishes the Magic from 3

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.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 10:38 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 10:48 pm
 

Pachulia and Richardson ejected for fighting

Posted by Royce Young



We were building to this point. At some point, the Magic and Hawks were going to rumble.

Finally it happened in Game 3 with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter. Zaza Pachulia fouled Dwight Howard hard, Howard flung his arms, Jason Richardson came to defend Howard after Pachulia took exception to Howard and off we went. Pachulia was right in Richardson's face apparently yelling "What? What?" and with the motion of his head seemed to headbutt Richardson. Immediately, Richardson threw and open-handed push to the face at Pachulia.

After the officials reviewed the play, both Pachulia and Richardson were ejected with "fighting" fouls. Howard was assessed a technical because of hanging his elbow out.

Obviously the NBA will review this incident and it's likely both Pachulia and Richardson will be hit with suspensions. Will the NBA punish Howard for the elbow? Remember that he was suspended a game in the postseason in 2009 for one, which was widely criticized.

Pachulia defended Howard extremely well in the post all game long, holding the MVP candidate to just 21 points. Howard averaged 39.5 the first two games. Pachulia is notorious for getting under player's skin and he certainly has with Howard. The follow-through from Howard was pretty clearly intentional and it set Pachulia off. Howard takes a beating every night and at times, does a poor job of containing his frustration. It set off this chain of events which will likely put Richardson and Pachulia on the bench for a big Game 4.

Atlanta went on to win 88-84 after a huge Jamal Crawford 3 to take a 2-1 series lead.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 2:52 pm
 

Series Reset Hawks-Magic: The art of Smoove

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. 
Posted on: April 20, 2011 2:47 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 3:15 am
 

NBA Playoffs Hawks-Magic: Game 2 Reactions

Reactions from around the web from Hawks-Magic Game 2. 
Posted by Matt Moore



In the second half, Atlanta tried everything to make up the deficit.

After sitting out for most of the first half, it was clear that Larry Drew was going to try everything in his power to get Al Horford involved offensively. Larry Drew did just that, as he immediately called for Horford to get the basketball on the low block-and-go to work against Brandon Bass. However, even though Bass got beat a few times, he put up a great stand against Horford defensively and held his ground more often than not. Horford is a strong player, no question about it, but Bass’ lower-body strength allowed him to dig in the trenches. Horford tried all that he could to overwhelm Bass, but he couldn’t do it.
via Recap: Orlando Magic 88, Atlanta Hawks 82 | Magic Basketball .

This turn of events was really significant. When the mid-range jumpers were failing in the first half, Drew turned to Horford in the block. The Magic even brought help but Horford was rightfully focused on taking Bass on offense (he should have been able to based on scouting reports) and couldn't kick start the perimeter rotation. Not that the Hawks run any sort of perimeter ball movement, but even the theoretical was thwarted. Horford has to be a huge factor in this series if Howard's not guarding or spying him weak-side. He's got  to produce as he did in Game 1, even if that means using the mid-range jumper. It was a good example of the Magic's improved defense on the night. 
Orlando's head coach used only Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu at point guard after halftime, leaving Gilbert Arenas and Chris Duhon benched. The decision forced the usually gun-shy Turkoglu to play more aggressively, and though he missed 12 of his 16 shots, he a least ran the offense well and made proper passes. The 6-foot-10 matchup nightmare dished 5 of the Magic's 9 assists, with just 1 turnover, in splitting his 39 minutes between small forward and point guard. If Gilbert Arenas, who's struggled mightily since coming to Orlando in a midseason trade with the Washington Wizards, is out of the Magic's rotation, you bet your sweet behind that's news. For what it's worth, Arenas shot 1-of-3 from the field, with 1 rebound and 1 turnover, in 6 minutes.
via Orlando Magic 88, Atlanta Hawks 83 - Orlando Pinstriped Post .
Turkoglu had a fantastic game for a guy who shot 4-16 from the field. A shortening of rotations is expected in the playoffs, but an abandonment of Arenas is pretty big. That makes Arenas a $17 million towel-waver. But you also can't blame SVG for going this route. Turkoglu has the best pick and roll chemistry with Howard. In Game 1, the Magic ran zero plays for the pick-and-roll with the ball going to the roll man. In Game 2, they ran four such plays, with three to Dwight Howard. The result? Foul drawn, layup and-one, dunk. The Magic ran those plays in the first half. They did not return to them in the second half. The Magic do run sets out of the pick and roll to the post for Howard, but with Howard's physical and athletic talents, you have to ponder at why in the name of Brian Hill the Magic don't go to that set more often. 
In Game 2, the Hawks shot much worse and had a chance to win despite Larry Drew. It was a terribly wasted opportunity but, if Drew can either commit to playing his best players until they are disqualified or not play his worst players until absolutely necessary, the Hawks, in possession of home court advantage, can still conceivably win this series. Which is rather amazing considering they were outscored over the course of the 82 game season and their head coach either didn't try his hardest or proved himself obscenely incompetent in one half of their playoff games.
via Hoopinion: Atlanta Hawks analysis. Run on pessimism and truth.: Orlando Magic 88 Atlanta Hawks 82 .

There was a lot of talk about the rotations. Collins didn't play much. Horford was sat with two fouls until the half and finished with two fouls as noted by Hoopinion. But the bigger question in my mind was why, in a series where the Hawks have such advantages in terms of the athletic personnel like Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford who can play big and in space, the Hawks are slowing the ball down. The question came to me after Game 2. If you flipped coaching staffs in this series, even with Dwight Howard the best overall player in the series, wouldn't the Hawks be an overwhelming favorite? If the Hawks had any semblance of discipline and systemic value with this roster as constructed, wouldn't this look like a clear advantage for the Hawks in terms of matchups and overall ability? 

If the Hawks win this series, it's going to seem like they did so despite Larry Drew, not because of him. That's how it's played out in the first two games. 
The bigger issue was losing Al Horford. He drew two fouls in the first two minutes and Drew made the curious decision — as he has all season — to sit Horford out for the remainder of the half. When Horford got back into game in the second half, he looked out of rhythm and didn’t hit his first bucket until the fourth. The Hawks were outrebounded 52-39. Orlando had 20 offensive boards — most of those when Horford was on the bench.

“I got taken out of the game quick in the first half — I feel like that affected us,” Horford said. “They had 16 offensive rebounds in the first half. That’s something I have to be more conscious about. I was out of rhythm. It took me a while to get going. The team played well but we just missed some shots.”
via Hawks lose to Magic but prove something in process | Jeff Schultz .

Here's an interesting one. The Hawks had 13 rebounds and 15 second-chance points. The Magic had 20 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points. So the Hawks were actually more effective when they did get offensive rebounds than the Magic were. But the question still has to be asked. 

What are you saving Al Horford for? Horford's not a streak shooter you want available late. He's the consistent, productive, efficient player that anchors the team and can prevent them from turning into the ISO-heavy disaster they are so often on offense. Two fouls? This is the playoffs. You can't be timid with your best players' minutes. You have depth for a reason. Drew buried himself with this decision.
Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson woke up with a migraine headache on Tuesday morning, causing him to sit out shootaround and putting his status into question leading up to the Magic’s playoff game against the Hawks.

He went straight home after shootaround and laid down for several hours. Nelson took some medicine before declaring himself OK to play.

Nelson even considered wearing the migraine sunglasses Miami’s Dwyane Wade wore earlier this season, but “my teammates were laughing at me,” he said.

Asked how he felt a few minutes ago, Nelson said, “sleepy.”

He should be OK moving forward, but it’s at least something to monitor.
via Jameer Nelson played through migraine vs. Hawks – Orlando Magic BasketBlog – Orlando Sentinel .

This just makes Kirk Hinrich's night that much worse. The Magic played terrific defense. The fact that their starting point guard was having such pain and they still executed says a lot. It also speaks volumes about benching Duhon and Arenas. 
 


Posted on: April 20, 2011 12:59 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 3:06 am
 

NBA Playoffs Hawks-Magic: A return of logic

Magic tie the series up with the Hawks by locking down. It's becoming clear this will be system vs. players to the death. 
Posted by Matt Moore




We told you in the Series Reset the Magic defense would likely get back on track, but the mismatches would remain in place. And, heavens to Betsy, we got one right. The Magic held the Hawks to 40 percent shooting; just 7-20 from the arc. The Magic won the rebounding battle 52-39. They gathered 43 percent of all available offensive rebounds. They earned 36 free throws compared to just 17 for the Hawks. 

They won by just six. 

Now, the important thing here is that they won. A loss would have buried them in an 0-2 hole going back to Atlanta. Even the Hawks' terrible home-court advantage couldn't keep them from a series win in that scenario. The Magic responded with a defensive firestorm in Game 2, and that, combined with a terrible shooting night for the Hawks, was enough to lift them to victory. If the Hawks' exceedingly high shooting percentages in Game 1 were an aberration, than Game 2 was one of those painful situations where everything they put up was either brilliantly defended or just rimmed off. But if you wanted a good indication of the impact the Magic's defense had... Go big and go fast. 

Go big.  The Magic obviously dominated the glass. Dwight Howard was in rare form again. Just as he did in Game 1, Howard dominated the glass, just ripping the ball out of the Hawks' paws. But more impactful was what he did to interior drive attempts. When the Hawks looped to the basket, Howard was there. Twice Joe Johnson posted Hedo Turkoglu, spun around him and had a very makeable high-glass floater. Twice he had to adjust to get it over Howard's outstretched arms, and the result was a miss. Offensively, the Magic didn't dominate the points in the paint -- it was only a 36-32 advantage for Orlando -- but the Hawks shot themselves in the foot by shooting just 50 percent from short range. A grind-it-out, tough game, where one side has a dominant performance from the best center in the league... That's good enough for a win. 




Go fast . The Magic's transition defense gets a gold star here. They cut off passing lanes, shut off driving lanes, and scummed up any chance for the Hawks to get out in transition. Not that the Hawks' really made a concerted effort. Too often the Hawks elected to settle down. You would think Larry Drew would recognize that the Hawks' biggest advantage is in getting away from Howard on the break and using their superior athleticism. You would think he'd recognize that, but you'd be wrong. Regardless, the Magic were disciplined and relentless. The Hawks had seven fast break points the entire game on 2-6 shooting. 

The Magic's offense? Still missing. The Hawks' matchup advantages? Still there (Josh Smith 17 points, Jamal Crawford 25 points). But the Magic reasserted some of their own with Jameer Nelson edging Kirk Hinrich (who couldn't hit water if he fell out of a submarine in the middle of a deep-sea trench Tuesday night). But systemically the Magic got what they needed. The Hawks got their win in Orlando and now head back to Atlanta. 

System vs. Personnel. The battle continues. We've told you again and again. This one is going to be long and tough. And even in a loss, you have to wonder if the momentum doesn't lie with Atlanta. 
Posted on: April 19, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 3:38 pm
 

Series Reset: Atlanta has to keep up

The Hawks took out the Magic in every phase of the game except guarding Dwight Howard. What trends are we seeing as the series moves forward Tuesday night?
Posted by Matt Moore




The Narrative:   The Magic likely assumed they would win because they're the better team and because Atlanta has been so mediocre over the past two seasons, especially down the stretch. But somewhere in there, they overlooked the matchup advantages that Atlanta enjoys in this series. Dwight Howard is not a matchup problem, he's a fact of life. The Hawks are going to lose that battle no matter what. He's the best center in the league. Atlanta's matchup advantages come in lesser known areas. Like Josh Smith versus whatever slow, perimeter-based forward the Magic want to put on him. Or how well Kirk Hinrich matches up with Jameer Nelson (despite his 27 points, a good chunk of which were not defended by Hinrich). Orlando has to figure out a way to get the entire offense involved. They didn't in Game 1, and they sunk to the bottom of the sea even as Dwight Howard demolished everything in his path. Unless they get equal contributions from the other players, the Hawks may just resign themselves to getting dunked on while keeping the perimeter in check. 

The Hook: The Atlanta Hawks took 24 shots at the rim, or within nine feet of the rim . They took 27 shots from 16-23 feet. They were efficient down low, don't get me wrong, shooting 63 percent in that area, but they took an obscene amount of shots from mid-range. And, while they made 48 percent from that distance, that's simply not something you can count on in any basketball game. I mean, look at Al Horford's shot chart for crying out loud. 



(Click on the image for more from our GameTracker, Game 1 .)

That's just not production you can count on. Or is it? Horford shot 53 percent from the field in the regular season from 16-23 feet . If the Magic keep letting him hit from space, Horford's going to eventually force them out, which opens up passing lanes. This is a pretty big concern. That's five of their 13 makes from range right there. You have to think the Hawks will try and even out their production at some point, but they may want to take their chances with what worked in Game 1.


The Adjustment: According to Synergy Sports , you know how many pick and roll plays the Magic ran? 31. You know how many wound up in the hands of the roll man? None. Zip, zero, zilch. That makes Dwight Howard's night more impressive, but it also means a few things. One, if you go back and watch, the Hawks are closing two to three defenders on Howard or whoever the roll man is. Two, that adjustment means that the Magic, had they opted to, would have had an open shooter off the second pass on the pick, drive and kick. But instead, they just launched. Nelson comes off the screen, he kicks out, catch and shoot. Except that they were rushing all those shots. They had the opportunity to spin the ball when the Hawks started to try and recover, but instead just let it fly. The result? Brick city. 

The Magic are at their best not when they're just launching threes, but when they're actually creating stupendously open shots from their ball rotation. That's how they beat the Celtics and Cavaliers in 2009, and going away from that strategy in 2010 hurt them, as it's hurting them now. They have experienced, competent passers and shooters on the perimeter. The Magic need to slow down their decision making, not their pace, and work to create the best shot possible. Do that and their perimeter game will finally start to click. 

The X-Factor: Joe Johnson. Johnson should be the focal point of Orlando's defense, right? After all, he's their All-Star (along with Horford), and as close as it gets to a star player. Johnson went ISO 13 times in Game 1. He was 6 of 10 scoring, drew two fouls and had one turnover. The degree to which Atlanta puts Johnson in ISO tends to be a source of mockery for them, but you need someone to make tough buckets in the playoffs, and Johnson can do that when he's on. Furthermore, the Magic have nobody to guard him. Jason Richardson can't stick him, neither can J.J. Redick, Turkoglu, or the other wings. He's a nightmare, and when he's on, he can cause severe damage in a series. Just ask the Celtics. 

The Sticking Point: The Magic were knocked back defensively in Game 1. But this is one of the best defenses in the league. They were knocked back offensively. And they're one of the most dangerous offensive units. At home, down 1-0, you would expect things to get back on track. But this series has already shown a series of matchup problems for the Magic. Joe Johnson said after Game 1 that this isn't the same team they faced last year at all. And that much has become apparent, when you look at the player-versus-player breakdown. But, overall team strength has to come into play at some point, and the tug-of-war between those two elements will likely end up decidiing this series. 


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