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Blog Entry

NBA Playoffs Hawks-Magic: Tough enough

Posted on: April 23, 2011 12:32 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 12:49 am
 
The Hawks and Magic walked into a bar fight. One team walked out up 2-1. 
Posted by Matt Moore




By hook or by crook, the Hawks keep figuring out a way. A way to beat the Magic's perimeter offense, a way to not let their disjointed, overly simplistic one-on-one offense beat itself, a way to maintain the advantage over a team that looked ready to contend for a title as recently as this time last year. Hawks 88 Magic 84. Hawks now have a 2-1 lead in the series. 

And, again, it was a tight, highly contested game featuring some good basketball, some bad basketball, and some theatrics. Oh, and a fight. Those are good, too. While the basketball world was focused on the trampling of the Knicks at the Garden, the Hawks and Magic played a pretty fun game, excepting a third quarter which saw the Hawks post 15 points. It was an exceptionally tight game.  The Hawks hit three more field goals, but shot .5 percent points worse than the Magic. Neither team had a clear advantage at the free throw line, 21-19 Magic. Assists, turnovers, rebounds, steals, personal fouls ... all within 3 of one another. 

In the end, the Magic got back into the game, after being down nine at the half, by their tested formula. They played exceptional defense, conning the Hawks into Atlanta's favorite mistake: long contested jumper after long contested jumper. Meanwhile, the Magic raced to the other end of the floor, set the post with Dwight Howard, then kicked it out to create 3-point attempts. They fell for a while. Then they didn't. 

The Hawks should have won this game by more. Al Horford began the game as a man on fire, and set the tone. Horford outright bulldozed his way inside, taking Ryan Anderson in the post and working him over like it was a boxing match. Horford finished with 13 points on 6-14 shooting and seven rebounds, but on top of his aggressive play -- which lit a fire under the Hawks early -- he also nailed a decent mid-range jumper in the closing minutes to answer a similar Brandon Bass shot. 

Zaza Pachulia's hard foul on Dwight Howard, Howard's subsequent retaliation, Richardson's confrontation, Pachulia's headbutt and Richardson's slap to the face (seriously, all this happened in about ten seconds, check it out) will have big implications on this series going forward. But the fight, in itself, represented what's gone on through three games. The Hawks have been slaughtered by Howard on the glass, but have been more aggressive, more physical and more determined. That tough, gritty approach that everyone promotes in playoff play? The Hawks have it. The Magic are lacking, and are looking to kickstart their offense with 3-pointers. Don't get it wrong, the Hawks relied much more on contested mid-range shots than the Magic, but the Hawks also outscored the Magic in the paint. 

Pause. 

The Magic have the best center in the game. And the Hawks outscored them 36-34 in the paint. Not exactly a huge gap, but, with Howard, the Magic should always win points in the paint in this series. The Hawks did make a concerted effort to attack, though. And, sometimes, that was enough to get it done. Joe Johnson wasn't efficient, but he was effective. Jamal Crawford wasn't keyed in, but he got the job done. The Hawks, as they have in all three games this series, looked a step ahead. In Game 2, the shots didn't fall. In Game 3, they fell enough to give themselves a chance to win. 

A solid bank shot (don't call it luck) did the rest. 
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