The big matchup to watch in tonight’s Game Two is the one between Jason Richardson and Joe Johnson. Those two often show you how the two teams are going to go and Johnson dominated the matchup in the first game.
Johnson finished with 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting and seven makes from the free throw line in eight tries. It was a far cry from the 12.8 points per game and 32.5 percent effective field goal percentage Johnson posted in last year’s four-game sweep.
Richardson got off to a very slow start and ended his night with four points on 2-for-8 shooting, missing all four of his 3-pointers. Johnson did a number both offensively and defensively to knock Richardson out of rhythm (although I will say Richardson got open more than a few times on curl screens in the key) while pouring in the numbers offensively.
Johnson has had his way with Richardson in their three matchups (two with Orlando, one with Phoenix) this season, according to NBA.com’s StatsCube. Johnson averaged 20.8 points per 36 minutes and was +10 per 36 minutes with Richardson on the floor. With Richardson off the floor Johnson’s scoring goes down to 15.6 points per 36 seconds.
Conversely, Richardson went down from his season average of 16.6 points per 36 minutes to 11.5 points per 36 minutes. He also shot 45 percent while on the floor at the same time with Johnson and just 29 percent on 3-pointers.
“‘He’s a tough cover since he is 6-8, he can dribble, he can shoot — you just have to make it tough on him,’ said Richardson, adding that he’ll try to crowd Johnson more in Game 2.
“Indeed, Johnson’s size is what makes him so difficult to stop. He’s listed at 6-foot-7 and he rises high for his jumpers, making it difficult for most opposing guards to really contend with.
“‘That’s the biggest problem,’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ‘Not only when he takes you down low, but he can get shots up over the top fairly easily. I think we have to do a better job of getting to him a little bit quicker with our help, and we have to try to take away his strengths and his comfort zone a little bit better. But we’re not going to get much taller by tomorrow, I don’t think. So he’ll still have some advantage over the top.’”
What should be even more interesting to note is where Johnson gets his shots when Richardson is on the floor. Johnson gets 44 percent of his shots at the rim or in the paint. He shot 9 for 13 in the restricted area (pretty much at the rim) and 5 for 9 from inside the paint.
This is far different from the 38.7 percent average number of Johnson’s shots that he takes within 10 feet this season, according to HoopData.
Atlanta is already a team that does not take a ton of shots at the rim. The Hawks are a team that will take a lot of pull up and pick-and-pop jumpers from outside the paint. Giving them anything at the rim is just giving them points.
When Johnson plays Richardson that appears to be what is happening. Orlando has to find a way to keep Johnson on the perimeter and keep him away from breaking down the Magic defense. A lot of that falls on Richardson focusing to get over screens and staying in front of Johnson.
Photo via DayLife.com.