Getting eliminated from the postseason sucks.
It sucks for the players. It sucks for the fans. It sucks period.
Especially the way Orlando bowed out last year. The Magic and Hawks were relatively even teams in that series (or maybe I am deluding myself). Atlanta made plays down the stretch in Games Three and Four to take control of the series. The final wound was watching a still-injured J.J. Redick miss a wide open 3-pointer at the end of Game Six to send the game to overtime and extend the Magic’s season at least another five minutes.
It was bitter and horrible. The series painfully showed all the shortcomings in the Magic’s roster and quickly knocked down the seeming impenetrable confidence Orlando had over Atlanta.
Did the Magic fix the problems with that roster that struggled mightily to shoot the ball against the Hawks? Probably not. But here we go with another critical matchup and some measure of revenge on the line.
It has been a big week at home for Orlando. The team followed up a very strong effort in an overtime loss against the Los Angeles Clippers with a really strong effort, especially on the defensive end in the second half, against Miami.
The Hawks are a different challenge entirely. This has always been a team that is very good defense and is tough to gameplan for in the regular season — and apparently in the postseason too. It is a pretty big game for the Magic, so our friends at TiqIQ have another ticket deal for you:
After beating the Heat on Wednesday night, the Magic moved to just three games back in the division and will look to make up more ground on Friday against the 2nd place Hawks. This will be the first time these two teams have met since Atlanta beat the Magic in the 1st round last year so expect the Magic to come into this one with an added chip on their shoulder as they look for a little revenge. If you’d like to see it live then we’ve got a deal for you. Through our ticket partner TIqIQ, you can essentially pick your price via the TiqIQ “make an offer” feature from Score Big. For Friday night’s game, a “3 star” seat that usually goes for $70+ (after all the shipping and handling fees) can be scored for an offer of $51. But you need to make a fast break for this ticket deal, as it expires on Thursday 7pm ET! Make your offer today right here: http://tiqiq.us/7eM
For Magic fans, this is a pretty stern test. Two nights after defeating the Heat, the Magic get their chance at another division rival, whom they are chasing in the standings no less for potential home-court advantage. For an early-February game, this is a pretty big one for the Magic.
It is possibly even bigger for fans who probably hold grudges longer than players. Rivalries are born in the Playoffs and it became clear after a Game Three tussle that between Jason Richardson and Zaza Pachulia that these two teams were quite tired of seeing each other.
The good news for Orlando is that the Hawks are a little thin on the front line. Al Horford and Jason Collins are out for Atlanta, so expect to see Pachulia start. There are not any other true centers on the roster so Dwight Howard might be due for a big game. Pachulia is crafty though. We might also see some Josh Smith at center.
Atlanta is still very good though.
Statistically, the team, heading into last night’s games, rank 12th in the league in offensive rating (101.9) and sixth in the league in defensive rating (96.6). Once again, the Hawks do not do anything that stands out statistically, they are just a solid team that no one can quite figure out.
Josh Smith quite possibly could finally be an All Star this year. Even though his scoring is down to 15.6 points per game and his shooting down to 47 percent (a low since 2009), Smith still contributes a lot of versatility for the Hawks. Hedo Turkoglu struggled mightily with Smith during last year’s playoff series. If it were not for Smith’s puzzling 49.7 percent true shooting percentage — quite simply, he is not getting to the line or making free throws as much as he should be — there would be no doubt of his extra trip to Orlando.
Joe Johnson might also be in the running for an All-Star berth too despite his inefficient 43.2 percent shooting.
These feel like the same old Hawks.
Orlando’s record in that first home game against the team that eliminated it from the postseason has been strong.
|New Orleans (2003)||99-94|
|Los Angeles Lakers (2010)||96-94|
That is a 7-5 record the first time that ouster comes to Orlando. If revenge is not a motivation for the team, it certainly could be for the fans. A win would do a lot to put the past behind and get back into the upper half of the East.