Second Thoughts: Magic/Hawks Game One


Throughout the postseason, I will try to watch each Magic playoff game a second time to go a little deeper into what happened and how the Magic can adjust. I will provide my thoughts in this space.

First Quarter

–Hubie Brown is pretty adamant early on that the Hawks want to keep this game in the 80s or 90s and cannot let it get into the 100s. This, of course is so long as they shoot well. I think they did that in shooting 51.4 percent for the game and 6 for 14 from deep. The pace was definitely played at Atlanta’s pace, but Orlando just could not get the stops it needed to keep the score down. Like Stan Van Gundy said post game, if his team shoots 45 percent and scores 93 points they should have a chance.

–Early on, at least, Orlando played some pretty good defense. Very much in control and rotating very well to get the Hawks in areas of the floor where Howard can help and force them to make passes to areas they don’t want. The early turnovers and the 24-second shot clock violation early were good signs defensively. Still, you can see how much more willing Atlanta is to move the ball and make the defense work than Orlando is early.

–I noticed this last night too and I am not sure what its effect is, but the Hawks had Kirk Hinrich pressure Jameer Nelson in the backcourt as he is bringing the ball up the floor. Hinrich is not going for steals, but he is trying to disrupt the Magic’s timing on offense. By forcing Nelson to work to get the ball up the floor, Orlando gets into its offense much later in the shot clock. This would seem to promote the one on one play that doomed the Magic in this game.

–You can easily see the defensive difference between Kirk Hinrich and Mike Bibby. Last year when Nelson went off the pick and roll or tried to drive, he got all the way to the basketball and forced the Hawks defense to rotate, opening up Dwight Howard down low or the 3-point shooters. Hinrich is doing a great job staying in front of Nelson and keeping him from getting into the paint and creating offensive opportunities for Orlando. To be sure, this inability for Jameer to get into the paint was a big problem in the first half.

Dwight Howard got called for two 3-second violations in the first quarter. Part of this was Howard working to get positioning to receive an entry pass. Part of that is the Hawks defense preventing the Magic from getting good angles to pass into the post. Honestly, early on, it might be better to work the pick and roll game and get some other guys involved and going, to open up more space for Howard to receive the ball in the post. Not that Howard did anything bad in scoring the Magic’s first 10 points. Only problem is Orlando had just 10 points nearly nine minutes into the game.

–The Dwight Howard block on Etan Thomas‘ dunk is going to go widely unappreciated.

Gilbert Arenas had some silly turnovers early in his time on the floor for Orlando. But, give him credit for trying to create offense. He was trying to get in the paint and create for his teammates. He just does not have the speed or lift he used to have. Good run for Arenas at the end of the first quarter. The steal on Marvin Williams at the end of the first quarter was a great play. Another play that likely will go unappreciated. Great instincts, makes you believe Arenas will become some semblance of himself next year.

–Got to make free throws. This is not a Dwight problem. This is an everyone problem.

Second Quarter

–The matchups Orlando had to face in this game with Marvin Williams, Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson would never have happened with the old iterations of this team. With Jason Richardson pressed into playing the three and J.J. Redick guarding Joe Johnson, the Hawks have the big advantage. They did not have this advantage last year.

–At 9:58 in the second quarter, Atlanta made its only double team of Dwight. He found Gilbert Arenas open for three. One thing the Magic will have to adjust both in this series and in the offseason, they have to find slashers that will force teams to double Dwight Howard. It is a difficult balance for sure.

–Need to see more of Jason Richardson curling to get open. He had a nice cut to get open for a layup.These are the kinds of plays I expect to see Van Gundy run more of in Game Two.

–Hawks could not push Dwight out of the paint at all in the first half. The times he missed or turned the ball over were because either the Hawks were able to leverage him out of the paint or make the entry pass very difficult. When Howard gets leveraged out of the paint, he has to cover more space which allows the help defense to dig in and poke the ball away.

–When the Magic upped the pace, they got some pretty good looks. Problem is the Hawks did not miss so there were few chances to run.

–In the first half, Howard was going to single-handedly keep the Magic in this game. MVP perfromance. But he obviously needed help, especially on defense. As much as the Hawks were making shots throughout the second quarter, Magic still had the lead with 4:35 left in the second quarter. Howard was single-handedly keeping Orlando in this game. A lot of those makes were contested shots or one on one moves.

–Magic may have killed themselves in the second quarter by running almost exclusively post ups in the second quarter. No pick and rolls it seems. It is like every time the Magic came down the floor they were setting up the post up. With the Hawks not doubling, all Howard could do was score while the other players just went cold. Have to run some pick and rolls and when they do run them, the Magic have to be looking to score. Jameer Nelson sometimes looked like he was looking to pass all the way and not trying to score on some of his drives.

–It makes perfect sense that the Hawks went on an 11-2 run to take an 8-point lead when Howard went through his only stretch of missing shots in the first half.

–Since no one seemed able to guard anyone one on one tonight, why wouldn’t Stan Van Gundy go to a zone? I imagine it will be discussed before Game Two.

–Nobody is really fighting over screens. This was a problem throughout the game. The pick and roll defense was horrendous. And on curls, the Hawks were coming off the screens completely free.

Third Quarter

–The biggest growth in Atlanta really came with their poise. We were waiting all game for the Magic to make the run that would just bury the Hawks’ confidence. Last year, Jameer Nelson‘s five-point run to start the third quarter might have been enough to cause the Hawks to spiral. Maybe it would have if Josh Smith did not answer with a three. But Atlanta just stuck to its game plan and made plays. Orlando could do little to disrupt Atlanta defensively.

–Having said that, the Magic looked to have little poise. As Atlanta kept pouring it on and converting, orlando got more frustrated. It started with the offensive foul by Dwight Howard on the screen and just continued with ticky tack fouls and turnovers.

–Hubie Brown brings up a good point with about 7 minutes left in the third quarter. He asks where is the rotation defensively off the dribble penetration? Even though Jason Collins pretty much pushes Dwight Howard out of the paint on this specific play (where Kirk Hinrich waltzed in for a layup), I have to agree. Who else is coming to protect the rim and support? It is like the players are truly funneling everything toward Howard and expecting him to clean everything up. That is not a strategy that will work. These perimeter players have to take more defensive responsibility.

–The Magic are getting into their sets really late. Mainly because they are so conscious of getting the ball to Howard. Can’t blame them as it is about all that is working. But if the first look is not there, the Magic have to move on and find another offensive option. Just no imagination in the playcalling.

–The Magic have so little experience double teaming and it shows with how the team attacked Joe Johnson and Al Horford. Both Johnson and Horford were able to make plays despite getting heavy double teams from Dwight. Something to work on for Game Two.

–What made Jameer Nelson so effective offensively in the third quarter was his aggression. He was very decisive with the ball and knew exactly what he wanted to do with it and what his options were. His teammates just did not help as his 20 poitns were about all the Magic could muster in the third.

Fourth Quarter

–Orlando started with two three-second violations to open the fourth quarter. This was with Jameer Nelson on the bench. No one aside from Dwigh was particularly decisive with the ball. And this would account for Howard getting called for 3-second violations. Howard is expecting to either get the ball or to see a shot go up. Ryan Anderson, Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu did not know what to do with the ball for most of this game.

–The pick and roll defense was bad. I know I said that before, but it needs to be repeated. Stan is absolutely right, the one-on-one defense needs to drastically improve.

–Hawks go up 91-73 with 8:30 to play in the foruth. Jamal Crawford hit an absolutely ridiculous fall-away over Howard. Even if the Magic had played well offensively, I am not sure if the Hawks still would not have won. They were in rhythm and on today. Played energetic and together defensively too. Just a great game from Atlanta. Without bias, I can say it was a really strong game from the Hawks.

–Here is another picture of the game: Jason Richardson on the break trying to create off the dribble. Hubie Brown says: “Take it strong.” Richardson immediately tries (and fails) to shovel the ball to Dwight Howard.

–Once Orlando got down 18, the Magic really picked up their energy and went on an 8-1 run to bring the game back into shouting distance with 5:33 left to play. Orlando did not do much special offensively to get back. Rather, the team upped its defensive pressure. Yes, Atlanta may have been tiring and the team’s lack of depth in the backcourt began to show. But Orlando, for the first time since the first quarter, made the Hawks go to second and third options. They finally controlled the pace and were able to run off missed baskets.

–I criticized Jason Richardson during the game for failing to press up on Joe Johnson off the screens. But when he pressed on him in one-on-one situations, Johnson was just so quick and so big, he was able to have his way. J-Rich has a very difficult matchup.

–When push came to shove at the end, the Magic just could not hit a three. J.J. Redick and Jason Richardson each missed wide-open 3-pointers that were followed by Atlanta scores. Just momentum killers. But sometimes shots just do not fall. Important that they stay confident and keep shooting them Tuesday night.

–Turkoglu for whatever reason did not want to shoot when he got the ball in the fourth quarter. Sometimes he made the right decision… sometimes he did not. I generally feel better with him shooting the ball. He has little value otherwise. Turkoglu’s last mistake, a bad entry pass across the lane to Howard, ultimately cost Orlando the chance for the comeback.

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