How will Atlanta react?
It is not easy to lose in the Playoffs. It is not easy to lose by 20 points in the playoffs. I do not know if it is doubly hard to lose by 40. But that is the situation Mike Woodson and the Hawks find themselves in.
Atlanta might as well start from square one and focus on the positives (there were not many) out of the team’s Game One loss. Woodson can talk Xs and Os, change schemes and implore his team to move the ball, cut and make Orlando’s defense move and rotate.
But Game Two’s results will ultimately come down to how the Hawks come out and play.
They started Game One decently, so it is there. But when you lose by that many points it can be emotionally draining. It is good Atlanta can turnaround two days later so the team no longer has to hear about how they were “annihilated” or “crushed.” But it is also bad because the wound is still fresh.
What kind of team Atlanta is will be determined by how the team plays this game. The Hawks showed in Game Six in Milwaukee in the first round that they will not go down without a fight. But that was then.
Atlanta will need some energy early. Josh Smith actually did a good job getting out on the break and staying active on the offensive glass. Foul trouble kept him from continuing to make an impact the rest of the game. He will be key to any chance at winning.
How will Orlando react?
Similar to Atlanta, winning by 40 points can change the mood and focus in the locker room. But all reports say that the Magic are focused on winning the title and recognize this is just one game.
Bob Vander Weide brought out the fun stat of the week. Orlando’s biggest win in the postseason was actually its first playoff victory, a 47-point win over Boston. The Celtics turned around and took Game Two by seven points to even the best-of-five series (behind a big game from Dee Brown if I am remembering correctly).
Last year, Denver defeated New Orleans in the first round by 58 points in Game Four in New Orleans. The Hornets did not have the energy to muster any type of defense in Denver and fell by 21 as the series ended. These big victories are rare and can take the wind out of the losers sails.
It is early in the series though, so it is hard to imagine the Hawks packing their bags and heading out for the summer. Orlando cannot rest on its laurels at this point.
The Magic were completely in sync Tuesday night, but will need to be prepared for whatever adjustments the Hawks make to keep everything flowing.
What will Atlanta throw at Dwight Howard?
It is clear the Hawks must make every effort to slow down Dwight Howard in this series. Mike Woodson made a coaching mistake pulling Al Horford early in the first quarter, hoping he could match him up with Marcin Gortat in the second.
While Horford sat on the bench waiting for Gortat to check in, Howard flexed his muscles offensively. He was not just scoring, but making passes and getting assists — and hockey assists. He was the fulcrum upon which Orlando’s offense turned. When he was doubled, he had the patience to pass the ball to a cutter or to the right player on the perimeter.
Atlanta did not double particularly hard and did not opt to foul Howard often. This will change in the second game.
Howard is going to see doubles that will work to take away his baseline move and force him backwards. Atlanta will foul him any time he gets away and force him to make free throws.
But if Howard stays patient and reposts like he did in Game One, he will find a way to affect the game offensively.