Hawks Lack Ball Movement While Magic Put On A Passing Clinic

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Despite a 43-point victory in game 1, the Magic say the Hawks did not give their best effort.

“The Hawks are a great team,” Dwight Howard told the media after the game. “They didn’t shoot the ball as well as they wanted to tonight.”

That’s an understatement. The Hawks were 28-of-81 from the field (34.6%) and 2-of-13 from 3-point range (15.4%). Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford and Al Horford combined to shoot 7-of-34 from the field.

Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy thought the Hawks missed a lot of shots they usually make, saying “it was one of those nights” for the Hawks.

“I think when we watch film tomorrow, we’ll look at the good shots that they had that just didn’t go down,” Van Gundy told reporters.

Yes the Hawks missed some shots that they usually hit (Al Horford even blew a dunk after making a beautiful move), but it seemed like a lack of ball movement is what really did the Hawks in. Often, this lack of ball movement resulted in the Hawks taking low quality, inefficient shots. The Hawks consistently ran isolation plays and all that did was consistently get them terrible shots. On several of Atlanta’s isolation plays, they would wait until late in the shot-clock and then take a long, contested jumper. The Hawks shot a brutal 6-of-26 from 16-23 feet. That just won’t fly when you’re playing against a defense as good as Orlando’s. In fact, that won’t fly against anyone.

But this was no fluke. This is often the story when the Hawks and Magic get together, which is why the “shots didn’t fall excuse” really doesn’t apply here.

Obviously Dwight Howard’s defensive dominance forces players out of the paint and he often erases shots when players do venture into his territory (Howard blocked five shots on Tuesday), but that’s still no excuse for the lack of ball movement from Atlanta’s offense. Circle the ball around the perimeter. Run set plays. Try to lure Howard out of the paint with pick-and-rolls. Try anything else.

Most of the Hawks continued to talk about how the “shots didn’t fall,” but Al Horford knows the Hawks have to try something different.

“We have to come up with a different game plan because what we have been doing hasn’t been working,” Horford told the press. “We have to figure something out and play harder. We showed one look today so we have to try something different the next game and see if that works.”

If the Hawks don’t know what good ball movement looks like, all they have to do is watch film of Orlando’s offense Tuesday night. The Magic put on a passing clinic in game 1.

The Magic seemingly always made the extra pass to find the open man. They did a good job of swinging the ball around the perimeter to get open 3-pointers. Dwight Howard’s passing might be the most improved aspect of his game. When he was double-teamed, he did an excellent job of getting the ball back out to his teammates. Jameer Nelson knew exactly when to dish the ball and when to keep it himself when he and Howard ran the pick-and-roll.

Even Mickael Pietrus, who averaged just .7 assists per game during the regular season and has averaged only .9 assists per game over the course of his career, got into the act. Pietrus dished out three assists, including a brilliant bounce pass to Howard in the lane, who finished with a thunderous dunk.  After the game, he talked about how important it is for the Magic to have good ball movement.

“Always, always,” Pietrus said when asked about the team’s ball movement. “I think when we move the ball, we are able to get open shots and open it up for Dwight inside.”

The Magic have bought into Van Gundy’s system and have remained very unselfish in doing so.

“We don’t have the guys we’re going to run every play for,” Van Gundy said. “Our guys are not guys who are going to get or average a lot of field goal attempts or things like that. So everybody is going to have to come to grips with that and I think they’ve done a good job of that.”

Whether or not the Hawks could buy into a similar philosophy is up for debate, but they certainly haven’t bought in yet.

“Everybody’s comfortable taking shots within our offense,” Van Gundy explained. “We don’t have to rely on one or two guys.”

And that’s one of the biggest differences between the Magic and the Hawks.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).