A lot is being made from the fact Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson accounted for 78.5 percent of Orlando’s scoring — or 73 of the team’s 93 points — in Game One. And a lot should. These two guys were rolling at different times throughout the game and Orlando was decent even when they went through the scoring runs. The problem was the down time at the end of the second quarter and in the beginning of the third quarter when neither Howard nor Nelson were scoring.
The Hawks went on an 11-2 run ending with about two minutes left in the second quarter and an 11-0 run two minutes into the third quarter to go down by 15 points. These two stretches were largely the difference in the game. And in those stretches, Howard was not scoring and neither was Nelson.
If one of these guys is going on a roll, there is no reason not to keep going to them. Howard scored 31 points in the first half and was not missing shots or free throws. There was no reason not to keep going for him. Same with Jameer Nelson. Late in the third quarter, he was in rhythm and making shots. It was not even that he was not looking for open teammates, they were not hitting.
But during these two stretches, even as the Magic rode the hot hand, no one else got involved. The offense was effective minus the turnovers, but other players got lazy. The Magic’s offense became more than predictable.
The Magic are a defensive team of offensive players. There are a lot of guys on the roster who are not defensive-minded. Their defense largely goes how their offense is going. If they are not involved offensively, their attention wanes defensively. Not sure if this is what happened Saturday night, but it does not seem too unlikely. As Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and others saw the ball less on offense and stood around to watch, they fell out of rhythm with their shot and seemed less interested in all facets of the game.
No excuses if that was the case in Game One.
Offensive variety is needed though to keep the Hawks defense off balance and keep everyone involved. As Stan Van Gundy said post game, 93 points and 45 percent shooting should be enough to get the team a win in this series. Something went horribly wrong Saturday night.
Atlanta is not going to come off of defending Howard one on one. That means Stan Van Gundy has to find new ways to get Howard’s teammates open. The Magic did a very poor job of this in Game One, relying on Jameer Nelson or Dwight Howard isos. They ran few pick and rolls and few curls. When they did run these, they were actually pretty effective. But they ran it so few times that their effectiveness was difficult to gauge.
“I think what they have tried to do, a lot of it is because of their length, and they have done well, at least to this point, is they’re trying to make it a one-on-one game at both ends of the floor,” Stan Van Gundy said Sunday. “Down here, even if they beat him by half a step, that guy is going to go to the rim and contest the shot. They’re not going to come off and help and give you a kick out or looks to open threes.”
It was a one-on-one game, in Van Gundy’s words, and that is how the Hawks want it. Orlando has to do different things to get Atlanta shifting and rotating defensively, even if Atlanta will switch screens.
I do not even think the Magic ran a pick and roll involving Howard and Turkoglu after the first quarter. Hedo Turkoglu‘s poor 12.5 percent usage rate has to be increased somehow. Turkoglu is too good with the ball in his hands to be left out of the offense this much.
“I do not think [Turkoglu] made good decisions [Saturday] night,” Van Gundy said. “I thought he passed up open shots and I thought some of the ones he took, he could have very easily gotten balanced to shoot his pull up when he was not on balance. I thought he put a lot into the game on the defensive end of the floor. I thought he played very very hard. I thought his energy level was good. I thought he was really into the game. I just don’t think he made good decisions in terms of when to shoot the ball and when not to.”
Part of this was Van Gundy’s problem, the other part was Turkoglu. Turkoglu was not the only one guilty of this, but he seemed very passive and a little hesitant. There were plenty of opportunities where you would expect Turkoglu to shoot the ball, but he just did not. It was not even always to make the right play or the extra pass. His turnover in the fourth quarter on a poor entry pass led to a Jamal Crawford three that pretty much ended the game.
I would expect Van Gundy to involve Turkoglu more in the high pick and roll early on in the game and look to do the same with Jameer Nelson. Howard is going to be able to get his, but the Magic cannot solely rely on the iso set. They need the ball movement that comes from this staple play. Atlanta’s strategy of fighting over screens and keeping everyone else attached to the shooters made it difficult to achieve the necessary ball movement in Game One.
“We’ve got to find some other ways, I think, to get into some ball movement and get some other people involved because we don’t want it to be played as just a one-on-one game,” Van Gundy said.
Every time down the floor, Atlanta knew it could set up and stay tethered to where they were because the ball was going to Howard and nowhere else. This made it easier for the Hawks to dig in and strip Howard, especially in the second half. The Magic did not help themselves by turning the ball over 18 times, which is something Van Gundy said he emphasized in Sunday’s film review/practice.
The Magic need the offensive variety to keep the Hawks from settling in and surrounding Howard once it is too late for him to pass back out.
Photo via Getty Images/DayLife. Additional reporting by Carlos Pineda.