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Magic Rally, Take 2-0 Series Lead With 112-98 Win


The Orlando Magic rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat the Hawks 112-98 to take a 2-0 series lead. Vince Carter was fantastic in the second half, scoring 20 of his 24 points in the third and fourth quarters. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 29 points and 17 rebounds while Al Horford was the high man for the Hawks, finishing with 24 points.

NBA Stats


NBA Stats

If you compare the numbers, the final score looks like about what it should have been. Orlando shot an effective field goal percentage of 62.5% while the Hawks shot 45.3% and attempted nine more free throws. The game, however, was tight until halfway through the fourth quarter.

The Hawks weathered an early storm. Orlando jumped out to a 20-11 lead but the Hawks outscored the Magic 46-29 during the rest of the first half to take an eight-point lead into the break. During the Hawks’ run, they had much better ball movement and did rely on isolation plays nearly as much as they did in Game 1.

“We had ball movement going around,” Al Horford told reporters. “Instead of keeping the ball on one side or playing isolation, we were really moving the ball and sharing it. Guys were stepping up and making shots.”

The Hawks also took smarter shots, attacked the basket and most importantly, got Dwight Howard into foul trouble. This allowed the Hawks to better attack the defense and get Orlando’s offense out of their early groove. The Magic were running their offense through Howard and he responded by getting several good looks at the basket. With Howard out of the game, Orlando had trouble getting anything going on offense. The Magic scored just four points during the first six minutes of the second quarter – one Marcin Gortat put back and two free throws (on four attempts).

The Magic came out in the third quarter on a 9-0 run, taking the lead. For the remainder of the quarter, the game was back-and-forth. Atlanta took a two-point lead on a Jamal Crawford 3-pointer with 5.3 seconds to go in the third quarter, but the Magic answered. Jameer Nelson slashed down the floor and hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Magic a one-point lead heading into the final quarter.

That play really seemed to deflate the hawks and inspire the Magic, who absolutely dominated the fourth quarter. From the 9:37 mark to the 4:05 mark, the Magic outscored the Hawks 19-2 to put the game away. Atlanta went back to isolation basketball in the fourth quarter, once again taking several long jump shots. Atlanta looked lost on both ends of the floor and were outscored 28-15 in the period.

“We have to be able to finish games,” Josh Smith said. “The fourth quarter turned up another level and we stayed at where we were at.”

Although Dwight Howard had a monster night, Vince Carter’s second half was the story of the game. Carter scored 20 points and shot 8-of-12 from the field in the second half with nine points coming in the third quarter and 11 coming in the fourth. Carter not only made big plays, but he made the right plays. He knew exactly when to take to the hole, when to pull up and when to look for an open teammate. The most impressive play of the night by Carter came in the fourth quarter. Carter barely missed grabbing an offensive rebound that Hawks Forward Marvin Williams corralled. Williams went back up with the ball and Carter blocked his shot from behind. The Magic didn’t have a clear path to the basket so they threw the ball back out. Carter was waiting and hit a wide open 3-pointer, extending Orlando’s lead to six.

“Vince is a great player and he’s very very motivated to win games,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy told the media. “He’s making the plays that are there.”

“He likes being on this stage,” Van Gundy added.

Carter agreed with Van Gundy and has embraced his role as “the closer,” a role he described as “a guy who not only makes shots but makes plays for the rest of his team.”

“I live for it,” Carter said of the playoff stage. “Having the opportunity to play for so much, I welcome it.”

Dwight Howard had a huge night. He opened the game with 18 first quarter points on 6-of-6 shooting. Howard was going to his hook shot for a large part of the game. The Hawks often brought double teams at Howard, but they didn’t protect the baseline so Howard went baseline pretty much every time he was doubled until late in the game when the Hawks finally figured it out. Defensively, Howard still did an excellent job of protecting the paint but was much more careful. He chose which shots to challenge wisely in an attempt to stay out of foul trouble. Howard finished the game with 29 points on 8-of-9 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds but perhaps his most impressive and talked about stat of the night was 13-of-18, which is what he shot from the free throw line.

“He stepped to the line with confidence,” Vince Carter said of Howard’s free throw shooting.

Center Jason Collins is being inserted into the game with the sole purpose of fouling Howard. He picked up three fouls in only 1:27 of play on Thursday night. Center Randolph Morris also picked up three fouls in just six minutes, but if Howard continues to shoot free throws like this, he will negate any “Hack-A-Howard” strategy.

Rashard Lewis also got into the act. He was aggressive early, hitting four of his five first quarter shots and he made some big shots late. Lewis not only finished with a game-high (and personal 2010 postseason high) 20 points, but like Carter, he made all of the right plays. Lewis didn’t hesitate to make the extra pass and on Carter’s big fourth 3-pointer, rather than force the issue, he passed the ball back out. Lewis’s 20 points came on 67% true shooting and he also had six assists and five rebounds.

Jameer Nelson continued his high level of play and his buzzer-beater to end the third quarter seemed to spark Orlando’s fourth quarter run. Nelson protected the ball (one turnover), he got his teammates involved (six assists) and he stepped up and made big shots when the Magic needed him (20 points on 7-of-14 shooting). Howard is the team’s best player and Carter may be the team’s closer, but Nelson has been Orlando’s best and most important player through their first six postseason games.

Game Notes:

  • It was good to see Mickael Pietrus pass up a couple of 3-pointers in favor of attacking the basket. Pietrus finished with 13 points.
  • Orlando did not get much production out of their bench. Pietrus’ 13 and two points from Marcin Gortat was the extent of their scoring.
  • The Magic had four players score 20 or more points in a playoff game for the first time in franchise history. It hasn’t been done by anyone since Golden State did it in 2007 in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Utah Jazz (Baron Davis 24, Al Harrington 21, Jason Richardson 21, and Matt Barnes 20).
  • Al Horford scored 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting prompting Dwight Howard to tell reporters “he couldn’t miss.”
  • Atlanta’s 98 points is the most that an opponent has scored on the Magic in the postseason.

Next Up: These two teams will face off again in Game 3 Saturday in Atlanta.

Final Thought: After performing much better in Game 2, leading throughout a decent portion of the game and still suffering a double-digit loss, the Hawks seemed dejected after this loss.

(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).