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The news wasn't all good for the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night. Even though Atlanta is headed to the second round after beating the Orlando Magic 84-81 in Game 6 of of their opening round series, they may be without their starting point guard when they tip off against the Chicago Bulls next week.
Former Bull Kirk Hinrich strained his right hamstring as he slashed to the bucket for a layup with 3:07 left in the Game 6 win. He ran down the court on the ensuing possession with a noticeable limp and was removed from the game 11 seconds later.
The Hawks announced that Hinrich will have an MRI on the injured hamstring on Friday.
Hinrich averaged 10.2 points per game and 2.7 assists in the just-completed six-game series with the Magic.
Should Hinrich be sidelined for any considerable period of time, expect Jamal Crawford to get the bulk of the minutes at the point. Atlanta will also dust off second-year backup PG Jeff Teague, who spent most of the first-round series against Orlando on the bench.
Kirk Hinrich had 11 points, before leaving with a strained right hamstring in the fourth quarter and Al Horford netted 10 points and grabbed 12 boards for Atlanta, which advances to the second round to take on the Chicago Bulls.
"They never give us a chance," Atlanta forward Josh Smith said of the upset. "They never talk about the Hawks. They talk about Orlando, Chicago, Boston and Miami. We're always sneaking under the radar."
The pundits once again prognosticated against the Hawks, with few picking Atlanta to pull of the upset in the series. You could understand why, Atlanta didn't exactly impress in the second round last year.
The last time these two teams met in the postseason, Orlando quickly swept them out of the playoffs by an NBA-record average of 25.3 points per game. Vegas installed them as underdogs in every game and the series, including the final one at home. And Orlando guard Jameer Nelson told Chicago's Derrick Rose that, he'd see him in the second round.
Unfortunately, for the Magic, they had to play the games on the court.
"When you lose to a team by an average of 25 points, what better redemption than to play against them in the first round (the next year)," Crawford said. "We were up to the challenge."
Once again, the underdog Hawks got the job done in a game that they were not favored to win. But that's happened a lot with this Atlanta team that is derisively underestimated by the national press. Installed as two-point underdogs again on their home court, and called "the Birdbrains" by a local Orlando columnist, the Hawks entered this one with a chip on their shoulders.
"We came in at practice and there were a whole bunch of papers on our chairs," said Smith, who was still steaming at Orlando columnist Mike Bianchi after the win. "We didn't understand what it was. Everybody started reading. You could see the expression on everybody.
"Calling us birdbrains and dummies. I think that got us going. That really got us questioning ourselves. We just wanted to shut the guy up. ... That along with Jameer telling Derrick Rose he'd see him in the second round."
Smith was amped up and ready to go, even mixing things up a bit with that Orlando reporter after the team's morning shootaround. Coach Larry Drew shrugged of his team's perceived lack of mental toughness. And by the end of it Smoove and his teammates showed that the Hawks -- "fragile" or not -- were good enough to pull off the upset and advance to the second round.
"A lot of talk is going on," Hawks center Zaza Pachulia said. "It's part of the playoffs. We got to put it behind us. One thing I know is they wanted to go to the second round and they got to think of vacation."
Of course, this Hawks team didn't make it look easy.
Atlanta lead by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter before Orlando chipped away, cutting the lead to 82-81 on Jameer Nelson's layup with 34.3 seconds left.
Marvin Williams missed a crucial 3-pointer down the stretch, but Johnson grabbed the rebound and dished it back to Crawford, who was fouled with 8.2 seconds left. Crawford nailed both free throws to seal the win.
"Tonight, I told the team that this was our Game 7," Johnson said. "It's big we took care of our home court."
Atlanta got it done by sticking with its tried-and-true game plan. Front Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia on Dwight Howard and leave the other guys to guard Orlando's perimeter players. Atlanta had the size edge -- and with the exception of Game 5, where Orlando blew Atlanta out by 25 -- the trick worked.
The Magic reverted to form in Game 6, connecting on just 5-for-19 from beyond the arc as the Magic became pretty much a one-dimensional team that disproportionately relied on the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star Howard.
Once again, it wasn't enough to pull Orlando to victory.
Howard had 25 points and Hedo Turkoglu added 15 for the Magic, which lost the battle of the boards 38-31.
The Hawks are getting it done despite getting outshot by Orlando (40-percent to 38-percent) and committing one extra turnover (14 vs. 13).
But once again, the Magic are having all sorts of difficulties finding their perimeter game and may be sunk because of it. Orlando is just 3-for-11 from behind the arc in this one as the Hawks are seemingly taking control.
The Hawks head to the second round to take on the Chicago Bulls, should they hold on tonight.
This one is getting a little bit chippy late, with Turkoglu and Zaza Pachulia both picking up Flagrant-1 fouls in the third quarter.
Atlanta will need to do a better job crashing the paint and remain physical if they are to hold on in this one. However, all things look good for history to be made at the Highlight Factory.
The Atlanta Hawks are inching closer to that first-round upset.
Yes. The Hawks are hold the edge on the glass against a Magic team with Dwight Howard in the middle.
The rebound edge has helped the Hawks compensate for a sub-par shooting night for Atlanta. The Hawks top four scorers are a combined 27-percent (12-for-44) from the field. Atlanta is shooting just 35-percent (16-for-46) from the field in the first half.
The Magic on the other hand have reverted to their Game 1 through 4 form. They are not making 3-point shots (2-for-7 from behind the arc) and are relying too much on Howard in the middle.
The Orlando big leads with 11 points for a Magic team that is shooting 44-percent (14-for-32) from the field.
One thing's for sure, the Atlanta Hawks came out of this one with a good bit of energy on both sides of the floor. So far, so good for Atlanta's basketball team.
Al Horford has six points and five boards and Josh Smith also netted six to post the Hawks to a 23-18 lead over the Orlando Magic in Game 6 of their first round series on Thursday night at Philips Arena.
The Hawks are connecting on just 32-percent (8-for-25) of their shots. Nevertheless, they are controlling the boards and controlling the game.
Atlanta's been extra-active attacking the glass and getting putback buckets in this one. They outrebound an Orlando team with Howard in the middle by a 14-5 margin through 12 minutes of basketball.
The Hawks have also been aided by five Magic turnovers, three of which by Howard.
It looks like Atlanta has shut down Orlando's perimeter game. The Magic had just three tries from beyond the arc in the first quarter, connecting on one of them.
Those interested in getting in at the last minute can buy tickets through Tickets by calling 1-866-715-1500 or visiting www.hawks.com. You may also purchase tickets at Philips Arena box office prior to the game, subject to availability, of course.
As in Games 3 and 4 in Atlanta over the weekend, the game will be played under "Dwight Out" conditions. Fans are encouraged to storm the Highlight Factory wearing white to help give their team the edge in the crucial best-of-seven set against the team from Disneyland.
The Hawks, who suffered a 25-point setback in Game 5, lead the series 3-2.
As always, Atlanta SB Nation and Peachtree Hoops will bring you wall-to-wall coverage of Atlanta's crucial Game 6 matchup. SB Nation will be there live tonight, giving you the best on-and-off court reaction to what could be an epic night in Atlanta basketball history.
When the Atlanta Hawks returned to Philips Arena for practice on Wednesday after their disappointing 101-76 Game 5 loss to the Orlando Magic, there as a piece of paper sitting in each of their lockers.
"The Magic are going to win this series and the Birdbrains are going to fold up and collapse like a $5 lawn chair," the words on that piece of paper -- a column by Orlando Sentential scribe Mike Bianchi screamed. "You know it, I know it and deep down in the lonely recesses of their fragile minds, the Birdbrains know it, too."
The "Birdbrains," of course, was a pejorative term used to describe Atlanta's feathered basketball team.
The Hawks will get a chance to prove Bianchi and the other haters wrong when the Magic returns to Philips Arena for Game 6 on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., SportSouth, NBA TV, 97.9 FM).
Atlanta can clinch the series with a win. If not, Game 7 will be in Orlando on Saturday.
While Atlanta is still clearly in the driver's seat in the series, for the first time, there's seemingly a sense of unease amongst the Hawks faithful. That Hawks team that was prone to blowouts. That Hawks team that took stupid shots. That Hawks team that did not work its way through screens, reared its ugly head in that 25-point Game 5 loss.
And as good as Atlanta was in the first five games of the series, they were as terrible as they were in every single one of those 30-plus blowouts at home during the regular season. They were as terrible as they were against the Orlando Magic in the 2010 playoffs. They were as terrible as they were when they were blown out by the Boston Celtics in Boston in Game 7 of the first round four years ago.
Obviously, a lot has happened since then and Atlanta's success on Thursday night will come down to whether this 2011 Hawks team is mature enough to see the mistakes they made in Game 5 and correct them.
History is clearly on the Hawks' side. According to our own Mike Prada at the parent .com, when a team on the verge of clinching a playoff series gets blown out in Game 5, they almost invariably wrap up the series in Game 6.
In fact, the only exception in the last 10 times that a team that was up 3-1 got destroyed in Game 5 and lost Game 6 was in 2006 first round. In that one, the No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns rattled off three consecutive wins to beat the No. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
History aside, this Game 6 is a dangerous one for the Hawks. They must show up with the right level of intensity and remain committed to playing every possession like it matters. That was obviously lacking in Game 5.
They must realize that if the Magic are not feeding Dwight Howard in the post, they are going to try the pick-and-roll to get open looks around the perimeter. Atlanta's defense is going to have to fight through screens like they did in the first four games of the series. On the other side of the floor, the Hawks are going to have to be active, make sure that their touches are good and that their shots are wise.
Those are things that mature basketball teams do. And many around the league remain convinced that Atlanta is not a "mature" team.
Nevertheless, should the Hawks do the right, sound basketball things, they will make the Magic disappear. If not, as Howard suggests, the Magic could win this series and the haters will have one more piece of evidence that this Hawks team remains a mentally fragile bunch.
Yes, he went there.
Orlando Sentential columnist Mike Bianchi created a stir in the Atlanta Hawks locker room on Wednesday after penning a column calling Atlanta's basketball team "mentally fragile" and repeatedly referring to the Hawks as "the Birdbrains" after their 101-76 loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.
Bianchi minced no words in making fun of Atlanta's basketball team.
You want to see something truly Magical?
Watch now as Orlando turns the Atlanta Hawks into the Atlanta Birdbrains.
It's going to happen just as sure as the weather in Orlando this summer will be sunny and hot with a 60 percent chance of afternoon thundershowers. The Magic are going to win this series and the Birdbrains are going to fold up and collapse like a $5 lawn chair. You know it, I know it and deep down in the lonely recesses of their fragile minds, the Birdbrains know it, too.
Oh no, he didn't. Yes, he did.
Let's just say that it didn't take long for Bianchi's column to make the rounds through the Hawks' locker room on Wednesday morning.
It's bad enough when writers such as myself malign Atlanta's basketball team.
But those writers like myself have actually been around the team for the entire year. To us, the Hawks are like kind of your kid brother. We can pick on them, but when an outsider does. Them are fighting words.
And even if the Hawks have a tendency to turn into "Team Dummy" for jacking up bad jumpers at times as Bianchi suggests; they're our "Team Dummy," thank you very much.
Of course, the Hawks can go a long way of shedding their "soft image" by making the Magic disappear in Game 6 on Thursday night at Philips Arena. Here's to hoping that they use this piece as motivation and Bianchi can go back to writing about Gulf League Coast Baseball, Mickey Mouse or whatever else goes on in the sporting world in that one-major sport town of Orlando in the off-season.
Shortly after the Hawks were embarrassed in their 101-76 Game 5 loss to the Magic on Tuesday, the NBA released the schedule for Game 6 on Thursday. And Game 6 will be played at the same time as Game 5: 7:30 p.m. The networks covering the game will be the same: SportSouth locally and NBA TV nationally.
Let's just hope that the result will not be the same and that there won't be a Game 7 in the land of Mickey Mouse.
Once again, Atlanta-Orlando series is the bridesmaid of the night. This time, the series is directly getting passed over for Game 6 of the New Orleans Hornets-Los Angeles Lakers series, which tips off at 8:00 p.m. on TNT. This comes as no surprise in a league that's still all Kobe Bryant all the time.
The Lake show won Game 5 in La-la land to take a 3-2 lead and can clinch the series in the Big Easy on Thursday.
Also getting the TNT love is the Dallas Mavericks-Portland Trail Blazers set, which tips off from the Rose Garden at 10:30 p.m. Dallas leads that series 3-2 and can close it out in Oregon on Thursday.
Atlanta Hawks fans know that their inconsistent team is more than capable of getting blown out on any given night. Unfortunately, it happened as the team was on the cusp of clinching a first round upset of the Orlando Magic. Now they'll have to go home and try it again
Jason Richardson netted 17 after missing Game 4 with a suspension and J.J. Redick posted 14 to lead the Magic to a 101-76 demolition of the Hawks in Game Five of their first round series at the Amway Center on Tuesday.
Game 6 will be at Philips Arena on Thursday night. If the Hawks look anything like they did in this one, Game 7 will be in Orlando on Saturday.
Yes, folks, this one was just plain ugly.
It was like the Hawks took all of those tried-and-failed game plans from that 2010 second round sweep by the Magic and said, "let's try that again."
The Hawks defense looked horrendous. They departed from their "cover the guy on the perimeter" plan and over-rotated. That left someone wide open on the perimeter, and unlike in the first five games of the series, Orlando had no problem draining them from beyond the arc.
Orlando, which shot just 22-percent from 3-point range in the first five games of the series, looked rejuvenated from beyond the arc connecting on 42-percent (11-for-26) of their tries.
The end result was that the Magic did not need much from Dwight Howard, who finished seventh in scoring on the team with just eight points.
Yep, it was just one of those night for Atlanta's basketball team.
Josh Smith had 22 points for the Hawks on 7-for-18 shooting from the field. Many of those points came from a range you don't want to see Smith shooting from: long-range jumpers and 3-pointers.
Joe Johnson was a non-factor. He could simply not get anything going from the field, shooting just 2-for-12 for five points.
Jamal Crawford, who became the first player since Kevin McHale in 1991 to get over the 20 mark off the bench in the first four games of a playoff series, looked human, connecting on just 2-of-8 for eight points.
It was just ugly all around for an Atlanta team that looked like the team that was down in the series. The shots were desperate and ill advised at times. The willingness to take it to the hoop wasn't there. The end result was a whooping that was reminiscent of all of those playoff games that the Hawks played against the Magic last year.
You know that series -- the one where the Hawks lost by an NBA average of 25.3 points in a four-game sweep.
Atlanta's going to have to make their adjustments ahead of Game 6, get back to playing good defense and penetrating the paint on offense. It's time to "mature" put up or shut up guys. This performance was unacceptable.
Marvin Williams netted 12 points and Al Horford added nine and 14 boards for Atlanta, which committed 13 turnovers.
The Atlanta Hawks will be going back to Atlanta for another game. If they play anything like they are tonight on Thursday, they could be returning to the Amway Center one more time as well.
This one is ugly. This one is over.
The Hawks seem to have lost the ability to stick to their man on defense. And when they have the basketball, they resemble more of that lazy jump shooting Hawks team than the team that won three of the first four games by pounding the paint.
Yes, Orlando has made some adjustments, closing the passing lane into the paint. But the Hawks simply can't hold their hands up and settle for the lazy jumper, which is not falling tonight.
But Joe Johnson (five points, 2-for-11 from the field) and Jamal Crawford (five points, 1-for-6 from the field) are having all sorts of difficulties tonight. Joe can't seem to solve an Orlando double-team. He's dishing the ball to Smith, who is taking a lot of shots that make Hawks fans groan.
Amazingly, Orlando is doing this without much from Dwight Howard, who has eight points and eight boards through three quarters.
Jameer Nelson posted seven points and Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson have six each for Orlando, which finally found its perimeter game. The Magic have converted on 6-of-13 from beyond the 3-point line.
The Hawks on the other hand look like that 2010 team that was swept out of the playoffs by the Magic. They look lost on defense and have Josh Smith taking too many shots away from where Josh Smith should be taking shots.
Smith leads the team with 11 points, but is just 4-for-12 from the field.
I think you're beginning to get the theme here.
The Hawks are simply being outplayed by the Magic and look like the team that is down in the series. For the first time in the series, they are the team on their toes. They are the team that isn't attacking. They are the team that doesn't have any momentum. And they are missing their shots.
Orlando on the other hand finally found their lost shot and look like that dangerous Magic team that most expected would win the series in a rout.
Atlanta is going to have to get back to basics if they want to climb back in this game. Covering their man. Not letting Orlando get easy looks and they need to attack the basket. Otherwise, this one is coming back to Atlanta for Game 6 on Thursday.
The Atlanta Hawks are in an all-too-familiar situation -- nearly double-digit underdogs on their opponent's floor. But if Game 5 goes like the rest of the series has thus far, the Hawks will have no problem covering the spread and pulling off an upset.
The no-respect Hawks hope to soar to a series win when they take on the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., SportSouth, NBA TV, 97.9 FM).
Vegas has installed the Hawks as eight-point underdogs again on the Magic's home court. The public has pushed the number to -7, but the message to Atlanta and their fans is still clear: the bookies still don't believe that the Hawks can pull off a W in the land of Mickey Mouse.
However, this Hawks team has been underestimated throughout the entire series. Not many of the so-called experts gave them a chance against Dwight Howard's team and few thought that the series would go past six games. Nevertheless, Atlanta sits on the precipice of bouncing a team in five games in a best-of-seven game set for the first time since beating the Chicago Bulls in the 1969-1970 Western Division Semifinals.
Don't expect to see much of a deviation from what has worked thus far for Atlanta. Look for them to continue to allow Howard to have as many touches as he wants to, while Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia pester him as he goes to the post.
Meanwhile, Atlanta will use its size and athleticism to take on Orlando's perimeter shooters.
The strategy has worked in the first four games of the series. The Hawks have figured out the Magic's tricks around the 3-point line. Orlando's game behind the arc went poof and Orlando was transformed from a top 10 NBA three-point threat to the worst 3-point team in the playoffs.
Jamal Crawford has excelled on the other side of the ball, posting 20-plus point games in each of the first four of the series en route to becoming the first player since Kevin McHale to come off the bench and post those kind of numbers.
Crawford has fed off of an active Atlanta offense that hasn't been afraid to go inside-out in the series. The inside-out game has helped the Hawks get open looks around the perimeter.
Hawks fans know that the team is a very good team when it penetrates the paint instead of lazily standing around the perimeter. However, when the team Hawks gets complacent -- like it did when Orlando erased a 16-point deficit in Game 4 -- they lose. Fortunately, we have not seen much of that in this series.
Two players we will see back for Game 5 are Pachulia and Jason Richardson, who will return after sitting a game because of their quasi-NBA-style pseudo fight. (Let's just say, it looked nothing like it had more of a look of a cat fight than something you'd see between Eric Boulton and Shawn Thornton on that other beat that I cover).
Richardson could be the difference in this one. If he can get his game going to compliment Howard, Orlando could hold serve and send this game back to Atlanta. That will make a bunch of Magic fans and the Atlanta Spirit happy, but that's about it.
Game 6* (if necessary) will be played on Thursday up against the NFL Draft at a to-be-determined time at the Highlight Factory. If Atlanta wins, Game 3 of the second round (likely against Chicago) will be here sometime next week.
The Atlanta Hawks still have tickets available for Game 6 against the Orlando Magic. Of course, this game is one of those starred games at this point, which in the sports world means "if necessary." Atlanta can wrap up the series with a Game 5 win in Orlando on Tuesday.
While the Game 6 is scheduled for Thursday, the time of the game has not been set yet. That will depend on whether the Chicago Bulls-Indiana Pacers series ends in five games and if the word "if" comes off the term "if necessary" about with the Hawks-Magic game. That would mean Orlando would win Game 5.
Fans interested in buying tix can do so by calling 1-866-715-1500, visiting hawks.com or through any other Ticketmaster channel. Remember folks, Games 3 and 4 were quick to sell out and if you want a seat for Thursday's possible series-clinching game, the Hawks advise that you buy as soon as possible.
The team announced that if the Hawks do what we all hope they'll do -- win the series in five -- not only will the team reimburse the price of the ticket, but they will also reimburse all associated fees incurred (e.g. those dreaded Ticketmaster "convenience" charges) in purchasing the tix.
Obviously, this does not apply if you purchase tickets from the secondary marketplace, such as a scalper or Stub Hub. In that case, you better have "your guy's" number to ask them about their refund policy. Good luck with that.
It took a while, but the time for the Atlanta Hawks' possible series-clinching Game 5 against the Orlando Magic has been set for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff on Tuesday. The game will be aired locally in Atlanta on SportSouth and coast-to-coast on NBA TV. It can also be heard on radio on 97.9 FM within the Atlanta market.
Atlanta took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with an 88-85 win on Sunday night at Philips Arena
The Game 5 between the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets will cap the night of NBA action with a 10:30 p.m. tip from the Staples Center in L.A. Chris Paul recorded a triple-double to help the Hornets to a 93-88 upset of the Lakers and send the series back to Hollywood tied at 2.
Joe Johnson nailed four crucial free throws down the stretch and Hedo Turkoglu missed a wild 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Hawks took a commanding 3-1 series lead with an 88-85 win over the Magic on Sunday night at Philips Arena.
Jamal Crawford continued his strong play off of the bench, netting 25 points to give Atlanta a chance to wrap up the best-of-seven series in Orlando on Tuesday.
"We're excited, we can taste that fourth win we need," center-turned-forward Al Horford told the team's TV broadcast. "Tuesday we're going to need to come out focused down there. It's going to be a battle."
The Hawks blew a double-digit lead in this one as the Magic used a furious second-half push to tie the game late. But each time Orlando seemed to gain a little bit of momentum, Atlanta calmed down, regained its composure, converted buckets and got the big stop when they had to.
Nothing was bigger than a Horford stop down the stretch.
Atlanta was staked to a tenuous three point lead before Orlando used their last time out and drew up the last play with just over 10 seconds left where the ball was fronted to Turkoglu. Horford poked the ball away from the Orlando 3-point sniper as the clock ticked down toward zero.
Turkoglu got the ball back, but only had time to throw up a rushed 3-pointer, which missed the mark to give Atlanta the win.
"I almost got the steal," said Horford, who also finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. "I got a little piece of the ball. I was trying to be aggressive. He had a good look, but the pressure got to him a little bit."
Imagine that, the pressure getting to a team other than a Hawks team considered brittle by some prior to the first-round series.
Atlanta took an 84-77 lead on a Johnson jumper with 1:39 left in the game before the Magic scored the next three buckets. Orlando cut the lead to 84-83 with 22.2 seconds left on a layup by Gilbert Arenas before quickly using their foul to give before fouling Johnson. The Atlanta All-Star, who signed a max contract in the offseason, coolly strolled to the line and connected on a pair of free throws to reestablish the three-point edge.
Howard followed with a put-back bucket off of an Arenas miss with 12.4 left, before Johnson was fouled and sent back to the line a second time with the same result.
Things are just falling perfectly into place for Atlanta.
"He was huge," Crawford told the Hawks' TV crew of Johnson, who finished with 20 points in this one. "He's our leader. He hit those big shots, connected on those big free throws."
The Hawks seemingly have turned around a season where Atlanta has been not-so-clutch at times at home. Forgotten are the memories of those 30-point losses on their home court and gone are those terrible memories of last year when Orlando celebrated on Atlanta's home court after sweeping the club's Eastern Conference Semi-Final series by an NBA-record average 25.3 points per game
Those memories have been replaced with those of a stifling Atlanta defense that let Dwight Howard get his touches but absolutely shut down Orlando's perimeter game all series. That defense wasn't much better than in Game 4, where Orlando went 1-for-22 from behind the arc after connecting on their first 3-pointer of the game. Keep in mind we're talking about a Magic team that was one of the best teams in the league from beyond the arc in the regular season.
The Atlanta faithful will remember the memory of a Hawks fan reportedly heckling the hometown kid Howard about his "whining," with the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year retorting: "You wanna come back out here and play me? I'm averaging 33 points a game. Just drink your beer."
Atlanta fans will take home memories of the pestering, hacking and fouling the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star, even to the extent where Orlando lost their second-leading regular season scorer Jason Richardson for Game 4 after he got into a fight with Pachulia in Game 3 -- sparred on by a rough foul by Pachulia on Howard.
Zaza missed this one, too, but his fighting spirit was evident in this Hawks team. A Hawks team that looked absolutely terrible when they dropped six straight games entering the playoffs. A Hawks team that few gave a chance in the series. A Hawks team that Vegas still bet against even after the Game 1 upset by installing them as an underdog in each of the first four games of the series -- even on their home court.
But this Hawks team is different. Somehow, some way, theyare on the brink of defying the so-called experts and making it to the second round.
What a difference a year makes.
"I think we're a little bit more experienced," Johnson said of the difference between this year and last. "We've gotten to the second round. We came into this series with a mindset that we were going to remain confident. We're just trying to ride this wave and win as many games as we can."
Howard had 29 points and Arenas added 20 off the bench for Orlando, which shot 39-percent (31-for-79) from the field.
Howard scored 13 of his 18 points in the third frame as the Magic closed the gap, but the Atlanta Hawks will go into the fourth quarter with a 66-61 lead in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series at Philips Arena on Sunday.
If the Magic come back in this one, they will have to thank Howard and former Hawks-killer Gilbert Arenas. "Agent Zero," who sat for Game 3 on Friday night here, has 11 points through the first 36 minutes. They will also stage a comeback without much of a perimeter game. Orlando has connected on just 1-of-18 from behind the arc in this one.
Atlanta has dominated this game in every facet but turnovers (13) and getting to the free-throw line. The Hawks are just 5-for-10 from the charity stripe, while the Magic got to the line 23 times and converted 18 free throws. Even Howard has fared well from the line, converting at an 80-percent (8-for-10) clip.
Joe Johnson had eight points and Al Horford had six points and eight boards for Atlanta, which shot 53-percent (20-for-38) from the field. The Hawks are also 4-for-7 from behind the arc, have also dished 13 assists and have a 26-22 edge on the glass.
The Hawks are controlling the offense and forcing the Magic to take bad shots on the other side of the floor. Dwight Howard has pretty much been a non-factor, siting for half of the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls. Josh Smith has also dunked and blocked a shot from his former AAU-teammate.
Even though Howard has just one field goal and five points and the Magic are shooting 28-percent (12-for-43) from the field and are 1-for-14 from behind the arc in the first half, the Hawks still took just a nine point lead into the break.
It's simple. Atlanta turned the ball over 10 times and the Magic have gone to the line 17 times in the first 24 minutes of the game. They have also looked sloppy at times when up by double-digits, jacking up jumpers instead of going inside-out.
The Hawks need to simply get back to the formula that helped them take control in this one -- challenging Howard in the paint and passing the ball for the best uncontested look. They also need to take better care of the basketball. If they do that, they should go down to the soon-to-be Tragic Kingdom up 3-1.
Also keep an eye on Howard. He picked up foul No. 3 with 1.1 left in the second quarter and could easily spend some time on the bench if he gets into foul trouble early in the third.
Johnson has eight points and Kirk Hinrich added five to help the Hawks to a 25-17 lead over the Orlando Magic through one quarter in Game 4 of their best-of-seven set on Sunday night at Philips Arena.
Howard did not score before taking a seat on the bench with 5:44 left in the frame. He did not return until the start of the second quarter.
The Magic predictably struggled without their big man in the middle. They buried just 5-of-20 field goals (25-percent) in the frame while the Hawks continued to connect on a good clip.
Atlanta shot 58-percent (11-for-19) in the frame and attacked the basket in Howard's absence. They also shared the basketball, dishing seven assists.
About the only thing Atlanta needs to do better in this one is take better care of the basketball. They had six turnovers in the first 12 mintues.
The Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic are sounding like they are two teams that are starting to not like each other very much. Of course, that's to be expected when you have a series that has been as physical as it has been so far with so much on the line.
One day after Pachulia landed a couple of head-butts and Richardson retaliated with one of those open-handed NBA-style quasi-girl slaps, the league came down hard, suspending both players for Game 4. But you have a feeling from the media availability on Saturday, it's not just Richardson and Pachulia that are growing tired of playing each other.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy called out Pachulia and fellow center Jason Collins for "flopping" while covering, pestering, annoying, hacking, grinding down former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star Dwight Howard.
Things were decisively different in the other locker room, where the talk was about how Howard likes to throw an elbow or two after getting fouled in the lane. Not surprising, since it was an errant elbow by Howard that ignited the mele between Pachulia and Richardson with 2:22 remaining in a game ultimately won 88-84 by Atlanta when Jamal Crawford with a ridiculous banked 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left.
That gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead in the series and set up as close to a must-win non-elimination game as possible for the Magic, who will be without one of their best players and 3-point threats in Richardson. Richardson was second on the team in scoring in the regular season and has been primarily tasked with guarding Atlanta All-Star Joe Johnson.
Plan "B" for Orlando may even include a Gilbert Arenas siting, although Van Gundy wouldn't tip his hand at Saturday's press conference. The Magic did not use the reserve guard in Game 3.
Replacing Pachulia should be a little bit easier for Atlanta. Sure, you don't want to lose the intensity of the Atlanta big, who covered, pestered, annoyed, hacked and ground down Howard in Game 3. However, Atlanta can just ask Jason Collins, Etan Thomas and Josh Powell to basically do the same thing.
Thomas was back in Atlanta on Saturday after missing Game 3 to go to his grandmother's funeral.
Expect another physical game between these two clubs, but look for Johnson to get a few extra looks in Richardson's absence. As always, this game will turn on Atlanta's ability to go inside-out and Orlando's ability to make shots from the perimeter.
Both teams fared better in those respective categories in their contest on Friday. The Hawks had 20 assists on 34 field goals, while the Magic netted a series-best eight 3-pointers.
The perturbed Orlando head honcho addressed the Zaza Pachulia-Jason Richardson suspension and other topics following the Magic's shootaround on Saturday afternoon and let's just say that he wasn't too complimentary of the Atlanta Hawks duo that has pestered Orlando superstar Dwight Howard throughout the series.
"It amazes me how many times guys as big as Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia get knocked down," he told reporters in an interview posted on YouTube by Nubyjas Wilborn of nobiasnobullsports.com. "You'd think they'd be able to stand up a little bit better."
But a sarcastic Van Gundy wasn't quite done berating the two bigs that clearly have gotten under the skin of not only Howard, but also apparently the entire Magic organization at this point in the hotly-contested best-of-seven series.
"I just think Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia get knocked down a lot for very big guys," Van Gundy added. "I know Jameer (Nelson)'s a real strong guy and I'm sure he ran right through Jason Collins. And Turk actually touched Zaza Pachulia on the chest on a screen and that sent him to the floor. The one thing I learned is that our guys are a lot strong than I think they were."
Of course from Van Gundy's view, Howard who has unleashed a number of vicious elbows after getting fouled hard in the series, could do no wrong.
"If it's physical, it's physical," Van Gundy said. "Great. Dwight would love to go out and play physical. I haven't seen Dwight fall down. Dwight's getting hit all the time. No, really, comeon now. Dwight gets hit every much as Jason Collins and Pachulia get hit. Have you seen Dwight fall down? Flopping to get calls? That's not the way he plays.
"The only frustrating part is when it's physical it gets physical and then guys take a dive and get a call. All I would like to see is let's either play it physical or if we're going to call when a guy barely gets hit and he flops down and lays on the fall, let's call everytime Dwight gets hit, that's all."
Not get the calls? Howard? Seriously coach? What about all those non-calls when Howard gives a little shove here or there or sets an illegal screen?
But what exactly do you expect other than an answer like that from the coach of a team that plays in a city that's built on make believe, fantasy and Mickey Mouse?
If you want to see all of Van Gundy's remarks, here's the video. The good stuff starts at roughly the 3:15 mark.
NBA Executive Vice President for Basketball Operations Stu Jackson announced the penalty shortly after 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Both players will miss Game 4 of the hotly-contested matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and the Orlando Magic.
The mele broke loose with 2:22 left in the game after Pachulia hacked former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star Dwight Howard in the lane. Howard retaliated with an elbow to the Atlanta big man's throat. Pachulia took exception and started lobbying for a technical foul.
Richardson then got into it with Pachulia in the key. The two continued their discussion under the Magic basket before Zaza unleashed a trio of headbutts to Richardson's noggin. Richardson retaliated with one of those open-handed slaps to the face that you'd see if you were out in a bar and said some sort of inappropriate thing to the wrong woman.
The Hawks ended up ahead in the deal in more ways than one.
Richardson starts for the Magic and is a prolific late-game 3-point threat. While Pachulia may bring a relentless intensity to the court, his numbers are nowhere comparable to J. Rich's.
The Hawks will simply go to Etan Thomas or another big man to pester, annoy and hack Howard, who has lead Orlando in scoring in each of the first three games of the series.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven first round set tips off at 7:00 p.m. on Easter Sunday at the Highlight Factory. Atlanta leads the series 2-1.
Crawford connected on ridiculous banked 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left to help the Hawks escape with an 88-84 win over the Orlando Magic in Game 3 of the first round matchup between the two clubs on Friday night at Philips Arena.
Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson were ejected for fighting down the stretch in a hotly contested game between two clubs looking for an edge in the series.
"I didn't call bank," he said at the post-game press conference. "I think the bank's closed right now. ... Actually I was looking for Joe (Johnson) or Al (Horford). I just tried to get to my comfort zone and get to my sweet shot. I felt comfortable getting there. Luckily, it went in."
In the end, it was the Hawks who will take a 2-1 lead in the playoff series. According to Fox Sports South, the Hawks snapped an eight-game Game 3 losing streak when going into that game in a series knotted at a 1-1 tie. The last time the Hawks won a game in that situation the team wasn't even in Atlanta. They were in St. Louis. The year? 1964.
"Feels great; feels good," Hawks center-turned-forward Al Horford said of the win. "We came out here and we played a really solid game throughout the game. This was our game. This was our game to win. We did it."
But getting to that win wasn't easy.
Brandon Bass nailed a jumper to post the Magic to a 84-83 lead with 1:01 left before Horford put Atlanta back ahead with a jumper on the other side of the floor. Atlanta ramped up its defense and got a huge stop in the ensuing possession, closing off the passing lane and forcing Hedo Turkoglu to take a tough 3-pointer.
Turkoglu missed and Josh Smith grabbed the rebound. Crawford lead Atlanta back down the floor. Orlando actually played some great defense, closing off the Atlanta sixth man's options to pass the ball as the 24-second clock ticked down near zero.
Crawford composed himself, eluded Jameer Nelson and banked a 3-pointer as the Philips Arena crowd erupted in a way that it hasn't since those three games here in first round of the 2008 playoffs against the Boston Celtics.
Off the glass, through the legs or from the Philips Arena rafters ala Michael Jordan-Larry Bird style -- it doesn't matter. The Hawks and their fans will take it -- as long as the ball goes through the hoop.
"It's one of those things where time stopped for a little bit," Horford told the Hawks television broadcast of Crawford's circus 3-pointer. "He's made that shot before. I'm just happy it went in."
Before a sellout home crowd all clad in white in "Dwight Out" conditions, the Hawks picked up the intensity. Zaza Pachulia was an absolute pest on Dwight Howard all night and things came to a boiling point down the stretch.
With Atlanta staked to an 81-79 lead with 2:22 left, Howard went to the post and Pachulia went in for the hack. Howard responded with an elbow to the throat. The Atlanta big from the Republic of Georgia started jawing for a technical on Howard.
Instead, Richardson got in Pachulia's face as the duo went behind the Orlando bucket. Pachulia threw a headbutt. Richardson followed with a slap and both were ejected. Dwight Howard also picked up a technical on the play. Suspensions could be looming for Pachulia and Richardson as there's an automatic one-game ban for throwing a punch.
"I just got (an) elbow (from Howard)," Pachulia told Nubyjas Wilborn of nobiasnobullsports.com in an interview posted on YouTube. "It was obvious, they called a technical. I tried to tell the refs. Honestly, I didn't see Richardson there. He came from behind me and things got bad there."
The Hawks came out of the gate in this one strong, scoring nine of the first 11 points before the Magic tied it at 25 through one quarter. Atlanta opened up a nine point edge at the break, but Orlando quickly got back into it in the third, tying the game at 55 in as Atlanta connected on just 2 of their first 14 shots in the frame.
"I think we settled way, way too much for the perimeter (shots) to start third quarter," Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
Crawford had 25 and Joe Johnson added 23 for the Hawks, who had 20 assists on 34 field goals.
Howard netted 21 and Richardson had 14 for the Magic, who connected on an Orlando series-high eight 3-point tries.
Things are getting a little bit testy at Philips Arena.
Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia and Orlando Magic forward Jason Richardson were ejected with 2:22 remaining in the fourth quarter in Game 3 of the first round matchup between the two clubs at Philips Arena on Friday.
With Atlanta ahead 81-79, Dwight Howard went to the hoop and was hacked by Pachulia. Howard followed with by unleashing an elbow to the throat of Pachulia. A livid Pachulia began to campaign for a technical.
Richardson got into Pachulia's face and the two players continued to jaw under the Orlando bucket. Pachulia unleashed a couple of headbutts on Richardson. Richardson followed with a little bit of a slap before the two were separated by teammates.
"I just got (an) elbow (from Howard)," Pachulia told reporter Nubyjas Wilborn of nobiasnobullsports.com in an interview posted on YouTube. "It was obvious, they called a technical. I tried to tell the refs. Honestly, I didn't see Richardson there. He came from behind me and things got bad there."
Pachulia and Richardson were both ejected for fighting. Both players will probably be suspended for Game 4. The NBA automatically suspends a player at least one game for throwing a punch, although Pachulia used his big head and Richardson threw more of a girl-slap than an actual punch.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Pachulia said. "I'm sure the league's going take a look, and I am going await a decision."
Howard was assessed a technical foul on the play for the elbow. Of course, he didn't think he quite did anything.
"I didn't see a tech," Howard said in a postgame press conference. "I didn't see a need for the tech. I was in the act of shooting when I got fouled I just went up. I don't think it should have been a technical foul for that.
"I didn't elbow him. You've seen me elbow somebody or come close to elbow somebody. I don't think that should be a technical foul. Especially after you review another play. The review is about the altercation."
We'll get video of the incident to you at some point, once it becomes available on the 'Net.
The Atlanta Hawks came out of the gate and started the third quarter a little bit flat. Fortunately, for Hawks fans, they were able to right the ship and still lead the Orlando Magic through three frames.
The Hawks struggled with their shot, connecting on just 2-of-14 to start the third as the Magic tied the game at 55. But Atlanta found its footing thereafter, tightened up the defense and started making shots to take a four point lead into the final quarter.
Atlanta went away from its game plan a bit in the frame. After posting 14 assists on 23 field goals in the first half, the Hawks had just two assists on five field goals in the third quarter. They also allowed the Magic to post a trio of 3-pointers in the third.
Orlando deserves some credit for clamping down on defense to start the third quarter. And, as always, he who dictates on defense controls the offensive side, too.
Atlanta's going to have to get a little more active in this one and defend a little better in the fourth if they want to hold home court in the series.
The Atlanta Hawks are sharing the basketball, hitting shots, playing defense and having fun on the court. So are their fans.
"(We're) just playing solid defense and not giving second chance points," Horford succinctly told the Hawks TV broadcast at the break. "Our adrenaline is flowing (thanks to the crowd). We hope the crowd will keep it up the entire game."
Atlanta was having a bit of trouble with Orlando's perimeter game in the first quarter as the Magic really for the first time this season had success from behind the arc -- hitting at a 3-for-6 clip in the first frame. But the Hawks made the necessary adjustment and shut down the team from land of Mickey Mouse. Orlando connected on just 1-of-8 tries from 3-point range in the second quarter.
It's not like Orlando's inside shots were falling either. Orlando, which shot 60-percent (9-for-15) in the first quarter made just 5-of-21 (24-percent) in the second. That all favored an Atlanta team that's sharing the basketball, making shots and taking care of business in "Dwight out" conditions at an amped up Highlight Factory.
The Hawks opened up a bit of separation with an actual Dwight out to start the second quarter. And even when Dwight Howard returned a few minutes into the frame, he didn't do much at all to help close the gap. The former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star had just two points in the second.
Jason Richardson netted a team-high 11 points and Howard had nine for Orlando, which holds just a 21-17 edge on the glass.
So much for the Orlando Magic not having much of a perimeter game.
Al Horford has seven points for Atlanta, which shot 55-percent (11-for-20) from the field.
As far as Orlando goes, the Hawks have been a little bit shaky with their perimeter defense in this one. As a result, Orlando has connected on 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Sometimes, it's been because Atlanta has a second defender momentarily doubling Howard. Other times it's simply because an Atlanta defender loses track of their man. In either case, it's something the Hawks need to make an adjustment on.
Unlike in the first couple of games, where Howard had an inordinate percentage of the Magic's offense, the rest of the supporting cast seems to be connecting in this one. Orlando is hitting at a 60-percent (9-for-15) clip from the field and guys not named Howard had combined for 18 points.
Atlanta opened the game with a 9-2 run as Al Horford abused Brandon Bass on the inside and posted six quick points inside. But Orlando made the adjustment and fronted Ryan Anderson on Horford. That's helped narrowed the gap at a raucous Philips Arena.
This one also turned a bit physical. Howard ran into Jason Collins, who landed hard on his back. Collins temporarily went to the locker room to get a heat pack. Josh Smith got smacked in the face and Horford was fouled hard and took exception to it and briefly jawed with a couple of Magic players.
Horford finished the quarter with seven points for Atlanta, which was outrebounded 9-7 in the first 12 minutes.
Atlanta hopes to reverse the trend of embarrassing home losses when they take on Dwight Howard and the Magic on for the first time on their home court in the opening round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs on Friday night (8:00 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN3D, Fox Sports South, 97.9 FM).
The Magic throughly throttled the Hawks in the second round of the playoffs last season, posting four consecutive wins by an NBA record average of 25.3 points. But Atlanta enters with confidence after stealing a game in Orlando to take home court advantage in the series.
However, it's not exactly like home court advantage mattered much to Atlanta and Orlando last year.
In the last Game 3 between the Hawks and the Magic here, Orlando utterly destroyed Atlanta, 105-75. The fans quickly turned on Joe Johnson and the rest of the team, lustily booing their terrible performance. A frustrated free-agent-to-be Johnson told reporters afterward that "he could care less" if anyone showed up for what turned out to be the final game of a disappointing sweep.
Atlanta has played much better against Orlando this year. They've figured out how to frustrate Howard and taken away the Magic's perimeter game. As a result, the Hawks took the season set by a margin of three games to one and split the opening two games of the two club's first round playoff matchup in Orlando.
Howard has gotten his share of points over his first two games, posting 46 in Atlanta's 103-93 victory in Game 1 before netting 33 in an ugly 88-82 Orlando win in Game 2.
The Hawks hope that some hometown theater will help slow down hometown kid Howard in the next two games here in Atlanta. Fans are asked to wear white to both Friday and Sunday's game in what the team is billing a "Dwight Out."
Whether that motivates the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy standout and AAU teammate of Josh Smith to another ridiculous performance or helps Atlanta's cause remains to be seen.
One thing that we will be seeing in Game 3 is a different look from Al Horford. The Atlanta center, who shifted over to the power forward position in this series, will be sporting what he called "Patrick Ewing" style knee pad over a balky knee that he tweaked in Game 2. And backup center Etan Thomas may miss the game due to the death of his grandfather. Thomas is one of the legion of bigs that coach Larry Drew has fronted, hacked and frustrated Howard in the series.
It will be interesting to see which Hawks team and what brand of Hawks fans shows up at Philips Arena this weekend. Both the Hawks and their fans have been a bit fickle at the Highlight Factory this year. Countless teams have come into town and beaten Atlanta soundly, while their fans started the all-too-familiar chant of "MVP!" for their team's star.
In fact, Atlanta had just 24 wins on their home court this season. They also fell 17 times here, which is an NBA record for a team that finished above the .500 mark according to the AP's Paul Newberry.
It goes without saying that Atlanta's ability to go inside-out instead of outside-in and hitting their jumpers after Orlando over rotates will pretty much determine how this one ends up. The Hawks will also have to contain Orlando's perimeter game and frustrate Howard into committing fouls, which will soften up the middle.
Sit back and enjoy the ride, Hawks fans. Two wins this here this weekend would put Atlanta in excellent position to upset Orlando in the first round. A split and it's going to be an interesting series. If Orlando wins both games... Let's just not think of that, OK?
The forecast is calling for "Dwight Out" conditions in Atlanta this weekend.
Preparations are being put in place as the first round playoff series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Orlando Magic heads to the ATL for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday. And the Hawks are asking their fans to give former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star Dwight Howard a little bit of a welcome home greeting when he takes the Philips Arena floor for both games.
If all goes well, it's going to be a total "Dwight Out."
Hawks officials are asking that every fan in attendance wear white to the "Highlight Factory" to show their support for the home team in both games. With everyone with a ticket getting a (presumably) white t-shirt compliments of Philips Electronics for Game 3 on Friday night -- that shouldn't be much of a problem if you get there and forget to wear the right colors to send Howard and the Magic a message about how rough of a place it's going to be to play in the ATL this year.
However, with the only rally towels available for Game 4 on Sunday, you gotta remember not only to bring your tickets to the game, but your white shirt, too.
Only standing room tickets remain for Friday night's Game 3, while some selected seats were still available as of Thursday afternoon for Game 4. But quantities are going fast. So log online to that big behemoth mega-ticket website and get 'em while they last.
For a brief moment, it looked like the Atlanta Hawks were going to give the Orlando Magic a run for their money down the stretch. But then Atlanta took a couple of jump shots and Orlando ultimately prevailed.
Dwight Howard had 33 points and grabbed 19 points to lead the Magic to an ugly 88-82 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of their first-round matchup at the Amway Center on Tuesday to knot the series at 1-1.
The Hawks pretty much lost this one because they couldn't hit jumpers and got ravished on the boards. Atlanta connected at just a 40-percent (32-for-81) clip and lost the battle of the boards, 52-39.
"We were in good position," Atlanta center/forward Al Horford told the Hawks' TV broadcast afterward. "We were down 10 and made a run near the end. We had it going our way. We had a chance to win the game. We just have to take care of those little things like geting to the rebounds and things like that."
One of the little things Horford was talking about was that all-too-familiar missed tough mid-range jumper that sealed Atlanta's fate.
Orlando was cruising with a 12-point lead with 5:40 left in the game when Howard picked up his fifth foul on an illegal screen. Despite the foul trouble, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy kept the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star in the game and Atlanta predictably went right at Howard at the post.
The three-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year had to cede ground to the Atlanta assault as the Hawks went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 78-76 after Horford swatted a Nelson shot and converted a give-and-go dunk with Josh Smith with 2:14 left.
Turkoglu added a layup to reestablish a four point cushion before Horford was stymied as he tried to get into the paint. Without any real help, he launched a mid-range jumper that missed the mark, Orlando controlled the rebound and the struggling Jason Richardson drained a 3-pointer with 1:08 left to make it 83-76 and essentially seal the ballgame.
"Toward the end we weren't able to get organized on the offensive end," said Horford, who also missed a 3-pointer on Atlanta's next trip down the floor. "That forced me to take shots that I normally wouldn't take."
Both teams struggled to find their groove in this one. A normally proficient Orlando team had troubles once again from the 3-point line, connecting on just five of 23 from beyond the arc.
Atlanta was downright terrible on the glass in the first half, where they were outrebounded 32-15. The Magic had one more grab on the offensive boards (16) than the Hawks did in the first 24 minutes.
As a result, a Hawks team that lead by double-digits early in the second quarter went into the locker room down 48-42.
Horford spent most of the first half on the bench after picking up his second foul 2:10 into the game. He still managed to finish with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Jamal Crawford had 25 points and Smith netted 17 for Atlanta, which returns home for Game 3 on Friday night at Philips Arena.
Dwight Howard is dominating the glass and the scoring. The Atlanta Hawks are having trouble hitting shots. Sprinkle in a little bit of help from some inconsistent officiating and the Orlando Magic are on the cusp of blowing the Hawks out.
Howard has 29 points and 17 boards as the Magic used a 10-1 run to end the corner to open up a 65-54 lead through three quarters at the Amway Center on Tuesday.
Unlike in Game 1 when the Atlanta shot 51-percent from the field, the Hawks are struggling a bit with their shot in this one. Atlanta has connected on just 35-percent (21-for-60) in this one and that plus the rebound disparity has been the difference in the ballgame.
Orlando's not exactly shooting lights out either. They are connecting at a 34-percent clip (20-for-59) and have just made two shots from beyond the 3-point line.
But the Magic have gone to the line 16 more times than Atlanta, which has helped to neutralize Orlando's sub-part night from the field.
Jameer Nelson has 10 points for the Magic, who have just seven assists on 20 field goals in this one.
The Atlanta Hawks are getting destroyed on the offensive glass, losing the battle for the defensive boards and still manage to be hanging right in there with the Orlando Magic. The series that defies all statistical logic continues to baffle in the Magic Kingdom.
Dwight Howard posted 20 of his 24 points in the second quarter and grabbed 11 boards in the first 24 minutes to lead the Magic to a 48-42 edge at the break at the Amway Center on Tuesday.
Jameer Nelson has 10 points for an Orlando team that continues to struggle from the 3-point line. The usually good perimeter Magic team is a very ungood 0-for-6 from behind the 3-point line through two quarters.
Jamal Crawford netted 13 points off the bench and Josh Smith has 11 for Atlanta, which has fewer total rebounds (15) than Orlando has offensive rebounds (16). The Magic also grabbed 16 boards on the defensive glass.
That domination has allowed Orlando to hang with a Hawks team that had connected on five 3-pointers.
Game 2 is looking just as bizzare as Game 1.
The Hawks went to the hack-a-Dwight strategy in the second quarter and Howard went to the line and scored. The Hawks lead by as many as 10 in the frame before Orlando got going, ultimately taking a six point edge into the break.
Atlanta did it all without Al Horford, who has been stuck to the bench after picking up his second foul 2:10 into the first quarter.
Josh Smith has seven points for an Atlanta team that was roughly a nine-point underdog in the Game 2 matchup.
The Magic somehow managed to go from bad to worse in this one. As if their underwhelming Game 1 perimeter shooting performance was bad enough, the team from the city made famous by Mickey Mouse have not connected on a shot from beyond the arc in the first quarter.
The Hawks on the other hand? Joe Johnson nailed a 31-footer from the "M" in the mid-court Magic logo as the shot clock expired and Crawford followed with an absolute rainbow to end the quarter after Jason Richardson committed an ill-advised foul to give the Hawks back the basketball with 1.8 seconds remaining.
As for Dwight Howard? He's been almost a non-factor so far. He had just two field goal tries in the first quarter, netted four points, grabbed three boards and committed four turnovers for an Orlando team that shot just 30-percent (6-for-20) in the first quarter. One of those field goal tries resulted in a gift bucket as the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star clearly took advantage of an illegal screen.
Jameer Nelson has six points for the Magic.
Crawford posted six and Johnson added five for the Hawks, who were 4-for-7 from behind the 3-point line in the first 12 minutes.
As if there wasn't enough indication that the New York-Boston duopoly over there at ESPN wasn't pay much attention to a "secondary" aka a non-New York, Boston, Miami or Los Angeles matchup in the first round of the playoffs.
Yes, we know people make mistakes, even the "World Wide Leader." And there are plenty of reasons to be a little off your game up there in Bristol.
Perhaps you were fawning over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers loss to CP3 and the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday or how LeBron James and the Previous Best Team Ever* (to finish second place behind the Chicago Bulls) dominated the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
But in any event, you kinda got it wrong there, guys.
But who cares? Game 2's Atlanta Hawks-Orlando Magic game is just on NBA TV and Fox Sports South anyway.
Sometimes there are just some stats in sports that boggle your mind.
Generally, when a team's superstar like the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant or the Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan is feeling it and going to the hoop with authority, the club posts a resounding win. Right?
But according to our friends over at our SB Nation sister blog the Orlando Pinstriped Post, the Orlando Magic are terrible when three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard goes off for 33 or more points this season.
How bad? Think Atlanta Thrashers taking 40-plus shots on net bad.
According to our own Evan Dunlap, who has crossed over enemy lines to our website during the playoffs, Howard has gone past the 1/3 century mark seven times this season. The Magic are just 2-5 in those games.
Why is Orlando that bad when their superstar is so good?
It simply boils down to this: when Howard is making his shots, Orlando's perimeter guys are either not taking or missing theirs. Think of the Magic as almost the anti-Atlanta Hawks here.
When Atlanta is very, very good, they are establishing the inside game, which helps them get open looks outside. The Hawks lose when they get lazy, do not establish a post game and settle for jumpers.
Likewise, Orlando has a tendency to get complacent when Howard goes to the hoop. The perimeter game lags and the end result is a Magic defeat.
Keep in mind that I kind of gave you the "Basketball for Dummies" analysis of what is an excellent piece across the line of fire in the enemy's blog. If you are a stats geek or dare to boggle your mind with a zillion numbers, take a look at Evan's complete report.
Heck, just reading all the Magic fans' whiny comments about their team is well worth jumping over there even if you weren't so good at 10th grade math.
The Atlanta Hawks went into the Orlando Magic's home arena on Sunday and utterly dominated a Magic team that basically had only two guys going. Dwight Howard set a franchise playoff record with 31 first half points en route to finishing with 46 and Jameer Nelson netted 20 in the third and finished with 27. But the rest of the team absolutely, positively struggled.
Howard and Nelson shot 63-percent (26-for-41) in the contest while the rest of the Magic were about as cold as the reception you'd get from your wife if you forgot your anniversary. They made just eight field goals in 34 tries for a very ungood 24-percent from the field.
The result was a 103-93 win by the Hawks in a game that most expected to be all Magic.
Keep in mind that these so-called "experts" that haven't given the Hawks much of a chance are the same guys who would rather have the tube on some game involving LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Best Team Ever* (to finish in second place behind the Chicago Bulls), Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers or the love affair between Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and the new Best Team Ever* -- the New York Knicks.
They simply haven't studied this season's history between two "second tier" teams in the Hawks and the Magic.
If they watched, like we have here at SB Nation Atlanta, they would have realized that a pattern is certainly developing every single time Orlando and Atlanta take the floor this season.
The Hawks front Howard, hack Howard and make Howard's touches difficult. Yes, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year gets his touches and his share of rebounds, but he also gets frustrated and doesn't hit at the same clip that he generally does. Howard, who told reporters that he ESPECIALLY hates losing to the Hawks, lets the pressure get to him, commits and extra foul or two and ends up in foul trouble.
That plays to Atlanta's advantage.
Atlanta won Game One on Sunday not because of stellar defense on Howard. Yes, they frustrated him a bit, but he got his touches and was even better than usual from the free throw line. The Hawks won because also shut down the Magic's dangerous perimeter game. By keeping Orlando's secondary players outside of Nelson pretty much off the scoreboard, they forced Howard to expend way more energy than he needed to. He was gassed a bit by the third quarter.
Obviously, coach Stan Van Gundy is going to try to make adjustments and get his help guys like Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas wide open looks. Orlando's best bet is to get Atlanta scrambling on defense and desperate on offense because we all know when that happens -- this dispirited bunch of Hawks is likely to play outside of their game, start jacking up ill-advised jumpers and lose the transition game.
The Hawks basically want to stick to the same game plan they did in Sunday's win. Play inside-out instead of outside-in, Pound the paint. Take it to Howard in the post and attack him on the other side of the floor, cover Howard's supporting cast like a glove and play good help defense.
The big X-factor for Game Two is the health of Josh Smith. J-Smoove sprained his shooting elbow in Game One's win. While it's not enough to keep him out of Tuesday's matchup, it will be interesting to see if he can bring the same intensity on both ends of the court that he and the rest of the team did in Sunday's win.
While Al Horford may be the emotional leader for the Hawks, Smith is the leader of the team's defense on the floor. The Hawks need Smoove to shake off the injury and bring it on Tuesday if Joe Johnson, Zaza Pachulia and the rest of the resurgent Hawks want to go back to Atlanta up 2-0.
Josh Smith is reportedly dealing with a sprained shooting elbow, but he is still expected to play in Game 2 of the Hawks' second-round series against the Magic on Tuesday.
Smith played, well, if not spectacularly, in the Hawks' win over the Magic on Saturday. He had 15 points and 8 rebounds, but shot only 2-7 from the free throw line. You have to wonder if the elbow was bothering him a little bit at that point. We'll have more on Josh Smith's injury as more information becomes available in this StoryStream.
The Atlanta Hawks pulled off an impressive playoff victory Saturday night, beating the Orlando Magic by 10 in Amway. Pretty surprising, but let me put it this way: Larry Drew outcoached Stan Van Gundy by forcing Orlando to play two-on-five.
Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson combined for 73 points, but Howard also gave up eight turnovers, five personal fouls, and a technical foul. No slight to coach Drew, of course, but few media members and fans expected to score round one for the Hawks.
Game two will also be played in Orlando on Tuesday night before the show heads to Atlanta for what the Hawks are billing as a fan white-out game -- a "Dwightout," and no, I didn't make that up. The schedule for the series' next game and beyond:
Al Horford netted 16 points and grabbed six boards and Josh Smith had 15 and eight for the Hawks, who began to get the bad taste of last year's embarrassing four-game sweep by the Magic out of their mouths.
So much for all those so-called "experts" who didn't give Atlanta much of a chance in the series.
"We could care less what they say," Johnson told SportSouth afterward. "All the guys in the locker room are confident. And we believe in each other and that's all that matters."
One could see why most experts and even Hawks fans wouldn't be picking Atlanta.
Not only did the Hawks lose six in a row entering the postseason, but they also were swept out of the playoffs by the Magic by a playoff-record 25.3 points per game last year. And they lost Game One in their Eastern Conference Semifinal Round matchup by 43 in Orlando's old arena.
What a difference a year makes.
So what was the difference coach Larry Drew?
"Composure," he said. "That was something we talked about coming into this series. One thing I wanted to emphasize to our guys is not to hang our hats on what happened in the regular season. We felt this was going to be a different Magic team than (we beat three games to one in) the regular season.
"I wanted our guys to come into the series with confidence, but I wanted them to respect our opponent. All I wanted us to do was play hard and maintain our composure."
The Hawks weren't perfect in this one, but they ultimately kept their composure and got the job done.
Yes, Atlanta let Howard have his way with the Hawks in the first half as the former Atlanta Christian Academy standout set a Magic playoff record with 31 first half points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field. But there was no shooting magic for the rest of the Orlando team, which netted just six field goals on 23 tries in the frame.
But the Hawks were having all sorts of fun and knocking down shots in transition to build a 55-48 edge at the break. Atlanta used an 11-0 run to extend the lead to double-digits in a third quarter where Nelson had all but three points of the Magic's offense.
Orlando cut the lead to single digits down the stretch, but it was never really a ballgame. Orlando had a chance to shave it to six, but Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich, who missed a jumper on the previous possession stole the ball from the Magic and found a wide-open Crawford, who drained a 3-pointer with 1:24 left to give Atlanta a 101-90 lead.
"We were just sharp on both ends," Hinrich told the Hawks TV crew. "When we have that mindset, we can be a very dangerous team."
The Hawks did it with tenacious second half defense on Howard. The Orlando big was held to just three points in the pivotal third quarter and was so frustrated that he picked up another technical foul in the frame when he threw down Zaza Pachulia when Big Z went up for a shot in the third quarter. He played most of the fourth quarter with five fouls.
Orlando simply couldn't get the job done with just Howard and Nelson producing.
The Magic duo scored 73 of Orlando's 93 points and shot 63-percent (26-for-41) from the field. The rest of the missing-in-action Magic? They connected on just 8-of-34 tries from the field (24-percent).
The end result was Atlanta's first Game One win on the road since the Hawks took the first game in a best-of-five matchup over the Indiana Pacers on April 25, 1996. The Hawks won that series.
Hinrich finished with 13 points for Atlanta, which shot 51-percent (38-for-74) from the field.
So much for Dwight Howard setting any playoff records. He, like the rest of his Orlando Magic team, had some trouble scoring in the third quarter. But not for Jameer Nelson, this one would be even more of a blowout.
Howard has 34 points and Nelson posted 20 of his 21 points in the third quarter, but the Atlanta Hawks used a 11-0 run midway through the quarter to post an 85-71 lead over the Magic through three frames at the Amway Center.
Joe Johnson lead five Hawks players into double figures with 23 points for Atlanta, which is shooting 58-percent (32-for-55) from the field.
The Hawks pretty much had their way with the Magic early in the third quarter as everyone but Nelson struggled to connect from the field. They scored 11 unanswered points to build a 68-53 lead on two Josh Smith free throws with 6:48 left before Howard stopped the run with a free throw.
Atlanta lead by as many as 17 in the frame before Nelson got hot and cut into the lead a bit down the stretch.
They are also playing relentless defense and pestering the heck out of Howard, who picked up three fouls and a technical in the third quarter alone. He goes into the fourth with four personal fouls for the Magic, who dominated the Hawks last season in the playoffs by a margin of 25.3 points per game.
It looks like a totally different Hawks team tonight. One that came ready to play and ready to make a series out of this one.
Howard had 31 points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field, but the rest of the Magic have just six field goals as the Hawks soared to a 55-48 lead at the break in Game One of the two club's first round playoff matchup in Orlando.
The Hawks haven't been able to do much of anything to contain Howard, who set a Magic playoff record with his 31-point first-half performance. Howard has posted up against Josh Powell and Jason Collins and gone to the basket strong, even finishing by connecting on free throws, where the generally sub-par free throw shooter has nailed 9-of-11 from the charity stripe.
The former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star is also getting things done on the glass, posting eight rebounds. However, there hasn't been much Magic from the rest of Orlando's basketball team, which simply is not nailing shots.
Atlanta, on the other hand, is nailing their jumpers.
Kirk Hinrich has 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. Jamal Crawford has shown up and also netted 11. And the Hawks aren't getting totally decimated on the boards, where both teams ended the first half with 17 rebounds.
Nevertheless, the Hawks can ill afford to get away from the game plan. If they want to win this one, they are going to have to remain committed to playing defense. They also can't fall in love with the jumper, as in a game of adjustments, you're not always going to nail them. Attacking Howard in the post in the second half will go a long way toward victory.
For those who are wondering, Howard needs 23 points in the second half to tie former Boston Celtics great John Havlicek's record of 54 points in a single playoff game against Atlanta. Havlicek set the mark on April 1, 1973 in a 134-109 win over Atlanta in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Of course, the NBA record for points in a playoff game is held by some guy named Michael Jordan. The former Chicago Bulls great posted 63 at Boston in a double-overtime thriller on April 20, 1986.
Howard has 12 points and Hedo Turkoglu netted four to post the Magic to a 19-17 edge over the Hawks through 12 minutes in Game One of the two club's first round playoff matchup in Orlando.
Atlanta connected on six of its first nine field goals to build a 13-5 edge with 5:31 left in the first quarter on a bucket by Kirk Hinrich. But the Hawks struggled thereafter, connecting on just two of their next 13 shots as the Magic stormed back in it.
At first, it was just the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star Howard that lead the way. He connected on Orlando's first four shots from the field, while the rest of the team couldn't hit a shot. But then Redick returned for the first time since March 9 due to an abdominal injury, the crowd responded and Redick nailed a jumper with 44 ticks on the clock to give the Magic a 16-15 lead.
Josh Smith reestablished a one-point Atlanta cushion with a layup before Turkoglu closed the quarter with a 3-pointer with 11.7 seconds remaining.
Howard finished the frame 4-for-6 from the field. The rest of the Orlando team was 2-for-12.
Smith grabbed four rebounds for a Hawks team that's not getting killed on the boards and has played decent defense through the first 12 minutes. If Atlanta sticks to this game plan, this one will not be a blowout.
If you are an Atlanta Hawks fans the numbers are discouraging. A six-game losing streak to end the season, where your starters have been the problem. Four games where you've watched your team lose by more than 30. And that all comes on the heels of an embarrassing four-game sweep by an average of 25.3 points per game in the playoffs last year against the team you're about to face in the first round.
Neverthless, your Atlanta Hawks can beat the Orlando Magic. Yes, that Orlando team with Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas. The Magic are indeed beatable, but it's going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach and a commitment to defense to get the job done.
If the Hawks win this one, it's going to be in the trenches.
Throw everything (including the kitchen sink) at Dwight Howard: Atlanta has frustrated Howard in the regular season, holding the former Atlanta Southwest Christian Academy standout to just 43-percent shooting from the field -- Howard's worst performance against any team in the NBA this season. They also have frustrated Howard into foul trouble. And as a result, Atlanta took the season set by a margin of three games to one.
Jason Collins is key here. He must be the first line of defense against the Orlando center. Al Horford --- who will move over to the four in Atlanta's anti-Howard big lineup -- must be the second line of defense in the post and Zaza Pachulia, Josh Powell or whatever other big they post up against Howard must come up huge.
Hack Howard all you need to. He's not a great free throw shooter. Don't let him beat you to the post and don't let him grab 20 boards. If he does, you're in for a long night, Hawks fans.
Don't be lazy: We've seen it again and again from this Hawks team. They stroll down the floor, pass the ball a time or two and jack up the ill-advised jumper. That usually results in an easy rebound for the opposition and an easy bucket in transition.
If Atlanta wants to win this series, they're going to have to take on Howard in the post and attack the bucket. Yes, Howard is a gifted athlete, but contrary to what Joe Johnson says -- the Hawks are not a good jump shooting team. They are most effective when they are going inside-out instead of outside-in.
Josh Smith and Horford are going to have to take the punishment dished out by Howard by going inside and getting to the hoop. The result won't be a pretty game, but Hawks fans would much rather have an ugly 93-90 win than a 117-74 blowout like they did last season in Game One vs. the Magic.
Forget about last year: Let's face it, every team in the playoffs is going to trail by 10 points at some point in the postseason. When this happens to the Hawks, they are simply going to have to forget about their woes against the Magic last season.
They're going to have to put all of those ugly regular season double-digit defeats in the rear view mirror and play fundamental basketball.
That hasn't been easy for the Hawks. When they fall behind, they have a tendency to rely on the outside game and a 10-point deficit soon becomes a 20-point deficit and before you know it, I am writing about another terrible Hawks loss.
The bottom line is that if Atlanta is to win this series, they just need to keep things simple: guard Howard, play defense, attack the paint. If they do that, they'll have a chance to win the series. If not, it'll be another lost season in Atlanta.
Part of the reason the Hawks had such a difficult time last season with the Magic was that, try as they might, they could not contain former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star Dwight Howard in last year's playoffs. The matchup with Al Horford -- who is truly more of a power forward than a true center -- was a mismatch.
Howard dominated the smaller Atlanta lineup as the Magic coasted to an easy four-game sweep by an average of 25.3 points.
However, things haven't been as easy for Howard and his Orlando team this season. The main reason why is a guy who played just six minutes on the court in last year's playoff debacle.
The 7-foot Collins has been just plain relentless fronting and frustrating the 6-foot-11 Howard. The results showed. Howard averaged a season-low 43-percent shooting percentage from the field against Atlanta. He also averaged 4.8 fouls per game.
With the offense flowing through folks other than Howard, the Hawks managed to win the season series against the Magic by a margin of 3-1. That gives Atlanta confidence going into this year's playoffs.
Collins, who missed Atlanta's last four games with an ankle injury, practiced with the team on Thursday and Friday and will start when the curtain comes down on the postseason on Saturday night in the city made famous by Mickey Mouse.
That will allow Horford to slide over to the power forward and Josh Smith over to the three, which will create some matchup issues for the Magic. Marvin Williams, who starts in Atlanta's "small" lineup will come off of the bench.
Look for Collins to pester Howard, foul him a bit and send him to the free throw line. When Collins is out, Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford will be asked to throw down the gauntlet.
The mission for the Hawks is simple: slow down Howard. If Atlanta can do so, they may even surprise an expert or two and take home a series win.
Atlanta never really had a chance against an Orlando team that coasted into the second round of the playoffs after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round. The Hawks, on the other hand, had trouble getting out of the first round barely outlasting the Milwaukee Bucks in seven.
Orlando, of course, was one of the hottest teams in the NBA at the time. Including the Atlanta series, the Magic won 14 in a row and an astounding 28 of 31 games dating back to March 1.
The Hawks really could not get anything going in the series, dropping the first game by 43, the second by 14, the third by 30 at home and the fourth by 14.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Atlanta's average margin of defeat of 25.3 points per game was the most lopsided four-game sweep in the history of the NBA playoffs according to Stats, LLC. The Philips Arena crowd lustily booed a Hawks team that just plain didn't show up for the series.
"That doesn't bother me," the then-free agent to be shooting guard said. "I could care less if they showed up or not."
Nevertheless, Johnson, who averaged just 12.8 points per game while finishing -72 in the series, was rewarded with a max contract in the offseason. The only real casualty of Atlanta's epic loss to the Magic was coach Mike Woodson, who did not have his contract renewed.
He was replaced by Larry Drew, who hopes to reverse the trend when the Hawks take on the Magic in the first round this year.
When Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson said, "I'll see you in the second round" to Derrick Rose, most assumed he was looking past his opening-round opponent, the Atlanta Hawks. Far from the truth! He was referring to
Josh Smith has retorted, because of course he did, saying:
A lot of their players are already claiming they are already going to make the second round, so that gives us a little added motivation, too. If that doesn't get you geared up, I don't know what does.
According to Smith the Magic are aware that the Hawks are better than they were last year, making the Magic perhaps privy to something that the rest of us aren't. Better against the Magic, maybe, but not really better.
It's been a long time since the Hawks have had a legitimate rivalry. Probably back to the late '80s against the Celtics, right? This Hawks-Magic thing could turn into one if Atlanta can finally take a meaningful postseason series.
Atlanta will head on down to the Magic Kingdom to open the series on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. That game will be on ESPN, SportSouth and 97.9 FM.
The full schedule for the series will be played as follows:
*- if necessary.
The 2011 NBA playoffs will begin with the Indiana Pacers traveling to play the Chicago Bulls at 1 pm ET on Saturday, followed at 7 pm ET when the Atlanta Hawks take on the Orlando Magic. On Sunday, the Philadelphia 76ers get the Miami Heat at 3:30 pm ET and the New York Knicks play the Boston Celtics at 7 pm ET.
Game two schedules are still up in the air, as are Western Conference games for the moment.
Games one, two, five, and seven will be hosted by the higher seed in each series, meaning Atlanta gets games three, four, and six. You'll now have the floor to make as many jokes as you need about games three through seven not being necessary, based on last year.
Ah, but that was last year. Hawks fans do have a glimmer of hope that the team won't fold like a neck roll this time around. They won the season series with the Magic three games to one, after all.
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