The Hawks own a 3-1 lead over the Orlando Magic in their first-round playoff series and look well on their way to avenging their embarrassing sweep agains Orlando in 2010, and they've done it with defense, of all things. Sure, they aren't in this position of strength without Jamal Crawford stringing together four brilliant performances, but I'd argue their defense against Orlando players not named Dwight Howard has been even more key.
After Howard, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu lead the Magic in shot attempts, averaging 15.5 and 12, respectively. They've both been awful, combining to shoot 30 percent from the floor in this series. Nelson, who averaged 17.3 points on 56.5 percent shooting against Mike Bibby at point guard in the last postseason, struggles to get around Kirk Hinrich or shoot over Crawford, limiting his effectiveness.
Atlanta has limited Turkoglu, meanwhile, to the lowest-shooting playoff performance of anyone averaging at least 12 shot attempts since the 1994/95 season. The veteran forward can't handle Josh Smith's length or quickness, and when the Magic have tried freeing him from Smith via a screen from Howard, Turkoglu has tended to think pass-first.
And a moment of silence, please, for Jason Richardson. The high-flying two-guard, suspended for Sunday's Game 4 Hawks win, has averaged a Damien Wilkins-esque 8.7 points in 34.3 minutes this series.
Understand that the Hawks didn't enter this series with a great defensive reputation. They ranked 13th in points allowed, pro-rated per possession, this season, and only stood out in defending three-pointers; only three teams allowed opponents to convert a lower percentage of triples than the Hawks. That dynamic is certainly at play, to an extreme degree, against the three-happy Magic, shooting 19.8 percent from deep on 26.5 attempts per game.