Posted on: April 29, 2011 2:01 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 2:20 am
Grades for Hawks-Magic. Hawks' toughness passes, Magic's composure fails.
Posted by Matt Moore
Josh Smith: Smith, by himself, could have probably made this series a sweep if he'd played like a guy with his size and athleticism. Instead, Smith opted to hang out on the perimeter, settling for jumper after jumper. Pull-up, spot-up, the works, while Hedo Turkoglu managed to get past him. Smith has so much potential to take over the game, and has the results when he drove or posted up to prove it. But he continued to waste time with his stubborn obsession with the mid-range and perimeter shooting. That said, he got his production, made some huge defensive plays, and helped the Hawks inside.
Joe Johnson: You can't really blame Johnson for being who he is. He goes isolation too often, and it's a huge detriment to the Hawks' overall offense. It was one thing when they didn't have other options. They do now. But he's such an entrenched part of the team that you can't really be surprised. Still, his defense was actually pretty terrific against the wings, and he did average 19 points per game. And he did on just 18 shots per game. Johnson is who he is. We can't grade him well because he wasn't good, we can't grade him too terribly because he didn't kill his team.
Al Horford: You can't run every possession through Horford. But, if you could, and he could keep his production, what a different Hawks team it would be. Horford wasn't brilliant, he was just very good, and typically a step above the rest in terms of decision-making and defense. He should have been able to back down Brandon Bass easier, should have been able to shoot over 40 percent more than four times in this series. But he averaged over 5 assists per game the last three games and helped space the floor. His flurry to start Game 4 set the tone. Horford will be the barometer for the hopes of the Hawks going forward in these playoffs and for this franchise.
Larry Drew: Benching Al Horford for a half with two fouls. Failing to get his team to focus on ball movement. Failing to close out the Magic in Orlando in 5. Giving up layups late. The list goes on and on. If you're ranking the eight coaches left in the NBA playoffs, Drew has to be dead last.
Atlanta's Toughness: Atlanta will get no credit for this as all the attention will be on the Magic's 3-point shooting woes, the Hawks' inconsistent offense, and their slim chances against Chicago. But the Hawks slammed the door on a veteran playoff team in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead, and that ended the series. The Magic took Game 5 in a shooting flurry, but it was over after Game 4. They scrapped, they challenged, they ran off the 3. They deserve credit for that.
Dwight Howard: His Game 6 is supposed to, in some way, tarnish his MVP legitimacy. Yeah, because 25 points and 15 rebounds with 3 blocks is a terrible game in a series where he dominated in rare form. Howard defined dominance in every aspect of this series, and the fact that the Magic couldn't get it done with what he did says worlds about their roster and, yes, pushes him towards the door.
Every Magic player who touched the ball on the perimeter and shot: Geometry lessons. Feng shui. Exorcisms. The Magic should literally go to the gym tomorrow morning and shoot until they go back to hitting their correct percentages. They lost this series for the Magic, point blank.
Orlando's composure: They couldn't adapt, they couldn't adjust, they couldn't get past the reality that the Hawks were outplaying them. Yeah, the shots weren't falling. But at some point in the playoffs you have to make the extra plays to give your team some momentum until the shots start falling. Orlando didn't do that.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 12:12 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 2:27 am
Hawks take care of business... kind of... in a way. A messy series results in the end of the Magic, with a future in doubt.
Posted by Matt Moore
An MVP season from the franchise player. A huge midseason trade to upgrade their roster. And the Magic are eliminated in six games by the 5 seed Atlanta Hawks. This is where the sad trumpet plays. You have to give it to the Hawks, though. Despite, you know, the offense, their decision-making, and their coaching, they advance to face the Bulls. Here's how they got it done.
Series MVP: Jamal Crawford. Crawford averaged 20.5 points per game off the bench. The Magic could sustain the damage done by the Hawks' starters, but Crawford was too much. On top of the desperation knock-out punch in Game 3, Crawford just keep dropping bombs the whole series. Crawford shot just 6-16 in the elimination Game 6, and 3-10 from the perimeter. That terrible performance dropped his 3-point percentage in the series all the way to... 47 percent. Nice shootin', Tex.
Best Play: Crawford's buzzer-beater. It wasn't pretty. He didn't call glass. But it's the kind of shot the Hawks seem to hit all series, and Magic never could get a lock on.
Best moment: Josh Smith blocks the Magic's last desperation shot in Game 6. Josh Smith struggled through most of the series by not committing to his athletic talents and playing too much on the perimeter. Then Smith turns around and blocks the shot at the buzzer to seal the win, and the series, for the Hawks. If that's not the story of Josh Smith's series, and/or career, I don't know what is.
Worst moment: Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson decide to get to know one another.
Most disappointing performance: The entire Orlando Magic team outside of Dwight Howard. The Magic rely on the perimeter shot. Going cold is one thing. Failing to make the extra pass is another. Not adjusting and forcing the ball inside, especially when the Hawks opened lanes for them to do just that, is a whole other level. Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, and yes, Gilbert Arenas; the whole lot of them failed to live up to their contracts and their responsibilities. Big ol' Fail for them.
Making a name: Kirk Hinrich? We know the Hawks. They've been together. But Hinrich showed that he can still put in buckets and play defense. His injury may be the biggest story going into Hawks-Bulls.
Theme of the Series: The Offense from Hell. There were some good games in this series. Some legitimately great defense. But there were also entire quarters defined by Hawks isolation after Hawks isolation and missed Magic 3-pointer after missed Magic 3-pointer. If the Hawks had managed ball movement with any consistency they could have ended this in four. If the Magic had actually landed a few shots, they could have made it out of the first round. There's good defense, and then there's bad offense. We saw both in this series.
Posted on: April 28, 2011 9:53 am
Hawks try to close the Magic out, but if Orlando can stay warm from the outside, they'll force a Game 7.
Posted by Matt Moore
One Big Thing: The Magic have to stay hot from the perimeter. This series really does come down to shooting percentages. Everything else evens out, even Dwight's impact inside, marginalized by the work of Josh Smith, Al Horford and the Atlanta bigs. It just comes down to whether the 3-point barrage from Orlando can hold up. That's what this game, and this series, will be decided on. Seems simple, because it is. Make shots, and Orlando's going to push this to seven.
The X-Factor: J.J. Redick wasn't bombing from deep in Game 5, but he was doing work off the dribble. Yes, little J.J.'s all grown up. The Magic need a ball-handler who can score off the bench whose name isn't a grill and whose knees haven't been through multiple surgeries in four season. Redick was hampered by injury at the end of the regular season and start of this series. He looked back to his old self in Game 5. That holds up, and that takes the sting out of Jamal Crawford, the real eternal X-Factor in this series.
The Adjustment: The Hawks have to get back to what worked in the first four games: running off 3-pointers, doubling, and recovering. All the damage the Magic did inside compounded the outside and vice-versa. The Hawks aren't going to improve on offense. They're going to have more bad possessions than good. But defensively, they spark fast breaks, which is where their best ball-movement comes from. Letting the Magic fire away will guarantee the Hawks suffer the ignominy of losing a series they were up 3-1 in.
The Sticking Point: The Magic really showed they were a better team when the shots were falling in Game 5. That has to put the fear of God into Atlanta. If the Hawks don't get a break and have the Magic miss a few early ones, Atlanta could come undone. This is a deciding game in this series, and not just because the Magic remain on the edge of elimination. A loss and the Hawks enter full-on meltdown mode. Just like that, a series that looked to be theirs can wind up firmly in Orlando's grasp.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:03 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 10:26 pm
Magic break open the 3-goggles and rout the Hawks. Are they back in this thing?
Posting by Matt Moore
When you think about it, two things really were inevitable. The Orlando Magic were going to start hitting threes. And the Atlanta Hawks were going to return to the basketball primordial ooze from whence they came. Both things happened Tuesday night as the Magic staved off elimination to make the series 3-2.
For four games, the story was the same. The Hawks were just getting by the Magic, and working their tails off to defend the 3-pointer. The Magic, in uncharacteristic fashion, could not hit water at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Granted, the Magic only shot 22 percent from 3-point range against the Hawks in the regular season, versus 21 percent in the playoffs, but the dropoff still felt "Thelma and Louise" like. (With Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson behind the wheel in wigs and makeup.)
Conversely, the Hawks were actually managing to function pretty well despite their terrible ISO-heavy offense. It was one of those situations where a team was fighting mostly with themselves and the Hawks were just managing to stay above water. When the offense was bad, it was terrible, but it was still producing some points. When it was good, it was pretty good.
But in Game 5, all that changed. The Magic hit more 3-pointers in the first quarter than they hit in all of Game 4. The Hawks went back to dispirited, disinterested, disjointed, uncommunicative play on both ends. All the sloppy pull-up jumpers, none of the effectiveness. Essentially, the Magic came out of the tunnel, hit them with a shovel, and the Hawks laid on the ground and said "I'm good, thanks."
The Hawks could afford to have a game like they had with the 3-1 lead. The Magic could not afford to not have a game like they had down 3-1. They had to get back to what they do well. Defend like mad, all over, not just with Dwight Howard, but on the wing, forcing the pull-up jumpers. On offense, they had to start knocking down open threes. Meanwhile Atlanta got back to what made them the laughingstock fifth seed. No effort, no cohesion, no adjustments. All series long it's felt like the Hawks were beating the Magic despite Larry Drew, not because of him, and this game made it seem like they couldn't overcome their coach's drag.
So the floodgates opened, and the Magic got a laugher in front of the home crowd. Will they stay open? If they do, the Magic can very easily get back into this series for real with a win in Game 6 in Atlanta, forcing the Hawks to crumble. If the Hawks remember how to play basketball in Game 6, on either end, this game will be nothing more than a mercy gimme.
One final note. Dwight Howard had eight points and eight rebounds, and the Magic won by over 20 points. That probably means nothing. But compared to the first four games of the series, it's certainly interesting that the one game in which the Magic don't rely on Howard to light the way, they play their most dominant ball of the playoffs. Strange, but interesting.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 1:14 pm
Gilbert Arenas can't save the Magic. But can the Magic save themselves?
Posted by Matt Moore
Gilbert Arenas was going to be the hero of Game 4 for the Magic. It was all there. Arenas scored 20 points off the bench on 9-18 shooting. The triumphant hero returns to save the day, and saving himself in the process. It really was all there. So even though the Magic lost that game, Arenas is going to get playing time in the next game after being DNP-CDs in the first two, right? According to SVG in the Orlando Sentinel, that's spot-on:
I'm not stupid!" Stan Van Gundy said after the Magic completed practice today.via Gilbert Arenas: Stan Van Gundy says Gilbert Arenas definitely will play in Game 5 - OrlandoSentinel.com.
No, SVG, you are not stupid. You may be desperate, though.
Arenas finished that magical game 1-5. He went to the layup off the pick and roll time after time, to his credit. But the Hawks' defense was also overreacting to Dwight Howard. Sure, if Arenas can continue to finish and get past the Hawks' defense, which will have Zaza Pachulia back, then maybe he can have a big game. But Arenas was also 1-3 from the perimeter. Gilbert Arenas isn't going to fix the Magic's perimeter shooting on his own, and unless that happens, the Magic are starting their vacation tonight. This isn't to say that the Hawks haven't had anything to do with the Magic's terrible perimeter shooting, they're running them off as well as a team can. Nor does it mean that a good shooting performance from the wings will automatically fix things and assure a win. But it has to be part of it.
More troubling, though, is the idea that Arenas can be the difference maker. He had a fine game. Maybe he has another one. But Arenas is never going to be the Agent Zero of old. Those days are gone, there's a tombstone that marks the era and everyone, Arenas included, has to move on. Arenas can be a competent role player, provide a spark, and help the Magic stave off elimination long enough to get the pressure back on Atlanta, a position that team is in no way ready to thrive in. That's all you can hope for.
The only thing that's saving the Magic is the Magic. They won as a team throughout this era of contention. The shipwrecked phrase, "Live together, die alone" comes to mind.
Tags: 2011 EC First Round, 2011 Hawks-Magic, 2011 Magic-Hawks, 2011 NBA Playoffs, Al Horford, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, Hawks-Magic, Jameer Nelson, Jason Collins, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kirk Hinrich, Magic-Hawks, Marvin Williams, NBA Playoffs, Ryan Anderson. J.J. Redick
Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:14 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 12:39 am
Everything is going the Hawks' way as they take a 3-1 series lead over the Magic. Can Orlando hit water if they fell out of a boat?
Posted by Matt Moore
It could have been legendary. It would have been fitting if, in the same weekend Brandon Roy put up a "flashback" performance in a win over the Mavericks, Gilbert Arenas finally, successfully had an impact on the game. The problem? The Hawks are still that much better. Or, at least they are right now. And they've got the series advantage to prove it, moving within one game of advancing to the second round with a win over the Magic Sunday night.
Instead of reveling in the late-game heroics of Agent Zero, who was 9-18 for 20 points, we're left with the same pattern we've seen all series: Jamal Crawford getting it done.
Crawford will never get the kind of love Arenas earned with his antics and personality, but he's as fit as anyone in the playoffs of being labeled the modern "Hibachi." He scored 25 points Sunday night, and has averaged 24 in the playoffs on 47 percent shooting. What's stunning is his perimeter work. Check out his shot chart in the playoffs courtesy of NBA StatsCube:
Crawford is 4-4 from the corner. That's 12 points in a series in which the Hawks hold a 2.7 point differential. That's a pretty big deal. Crawford has been downright incredible in this series, even if you think his bank shot to win Game 3 was "lucky." The MVP of this series is going to be Crawford, but down the stretch, it wasn't Jamal making plays in Game 4. It was the man with The Contract, the much-derided, often-forgotten All-Star, Joe Johnson.
Johnson scored six points in the final 1:34, first with a runner, and then with clinching free throws. Sure, the free throws were gimmes. But when you absolutely have to have those free throws, no one remembers the guy that makes them, only the guy that misses. Johnson calmly knocked them down, and finished with 20 points on 15 shots and 9 rebounds. He had six turnovers and a wealth of wasted ISO possessions, but really, that's the Hawks. That's who they are. So beating them up on a night where they hustled, and pushed, and worked their way to a win over the higher-seeded team with the best player in the series, seems disingenuous. It'll still be done, but the Hawks worked for this one.
And the Magic? They just couldn't hit. The word panic is used in the playoffs too much. But there's no other word for what happened to their offense. Those drive and kick threes? They kept shooting, over and over again, trying to force one to rattle home in order to kickstart a flood that would never come. There's no rain in Atlanta in the spring. Or Orlando, apparently. The skies have been dry in this series and the drought reached "Grapes of Wrath" proportions Sunday night as the Magic shot ...
Wait for it...
2-23 from the arc.
The Orlando Magic, one of the best perimeter shooting teams over the past four years, shot 9 percent from 3-point range. Nine. It doesn't get worse than that. It can't possibly, can it? Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ryan Anderson combined to shoot 0-14. If that won't doom you, I don't know what will. The Hawks did their part, running off threes, contesting Dwight Howard inside, even without Zaza Pachulia, and getting contributions from Kirk Hinrich and Al Horford.
It wasn't pretty, and people are in love with trashing this series for its offense without recognizing the athletic defense being played on both sides. But, once again, the Hawks are a little sharper, a little stronger, a little smarter, and find a way. The series isn't over, with the Hawks up 3-1 headed back to Orlando. If the shooting percentages change, this series could get tied up in a hurry. But the Hawks have shown nothing but determination in this series so far, and everything seems to be going their way.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 5:10 pm
Posted by Royce Young
The Hawks and Magic have turned up the Heat a bit in their seven game series, most notably with the skirmish between Jason Richardson and Zaza Pachulia. Both are serving one-game suspensions for this headbutt/slapface fight.
Stan Van Gundy as he tends to do, added a little more fuel to the fire calling the Hawks a bunch of floppers, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“I like it when guys stand up and fight like men,” Van Gundy said Saturday. “I think that is what the game is all about. The one thing that frustrates me is all the flopping.”Van Gundy has long been on the flopping crusade mainly because that tactic is one of the top defensive moves in guarding Dwight Howard. Pachulia has used it already a number of times in the series and Van Gundy is tired of it.
I can't really argue with Van Gundy because I despise flopping. I think it cheapens the game. Trying to trick an official into calling a foul where one didn't exist just isn't basketball. It's acting. It's soccer. I don't like it.
But here's the thing: It's effective. Not only does it turn the ball over, but it also puts your team one closer to the bonus and an extra foul on the other team's player. If you pull it off, it's great for you. There's really no downside to it other than sometimes you open up a bit clearer path to the rim if you don't get the call.
I ask the league if there would ever be a consideration of adjusting flopping rules and the answer was that it's come up multiple times in Competition Committee meetings. Maybe if it's an obvious flop, the flopper would get the foul? A technical foul? Create a "flopping flagrant" that gives the team a free throw and the ball?
It's such a tough call to make anyway that nothing will likely ever be done. Which is why this won't be the last time Stan Van Gundy says something about it.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:29 am
Edited on: April 24, 2011 4:00 am
The Hawks have a 2-1 lead that feels dominant, despite needing a desperation 3-pointer to save Game 3. Without Jason Richardson or Zaza Pachulia, how does this series go forward?
Posted by Matt Moore
The Narrative: You want a classic must-win situation? Try the higher seed on the road, down 2-1, in a series where the other team has looked superior for 9 of 12 quarters. Try a team with major questions on both sides of the ball playing without their best wing player. Try a team trying to tie the series up when their biggest advantage -- their franchise center -- has had HUGE games, and they've still lost. Try a team reliant on their 3-point barrage desperately scrambling to find that shot. The Magic have no reason to panic ... as long as they win. If they lose, the good people in the Magic Kingdom will be slamming down that button so hard they'll break it.
The Hawks, considered an afterthought in these playoffs, have an opportunity to take a commanding lead in the series. It's a testament to their team effort on both sides of the ball, even as people continue to mock them (rightfully) for their reliance on ISO play. The Hawks have depth with Jamal Crawford. They have a shut-down point guard in Kirk Hinrich. There's a versatile All-Star who everyone just wants to mock for his contract in Joe Johnson. A versatile power forward who hasn't even tapped into his potential in Josh Smith. And then there's Al Horford ... arguably the second best center in the Eastern Conference. What's not to like? The Hawks have confidence and a chip on their shoulder. This game's as big for them as it is for Orlando.
The Hook: How do both teams react to the suspensions for Jason Richardson and Zaza Pachulia? Richardson is a starter, a bigger part of the offense. But Pachulia has been bigger in this series, doing the yeoman's work on Dwight Howard with some success, and bringing physicality and toughness to the Hawks. Pachulia will mix it up with anyone, and he backs down players who should be considered tougher than him. Without his six fouls, Dwight Howard could have another huge game. Quentin Richardson could step up and deliver. This could work out being a blessing in disguise for the Magic.
The Adjustment: Is Josh Smith going to figure it out? Hedo Turkoglu can't guard him. No one on the Magic can guard him. But he continues to settle for 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers. If Smith decides to commit to his game, which is physical, fast, and athletic, he can have a huge night that puts him on the NBA map. But, if he keeps settling for perimeter shots and spot-up jumpers, he'll face more of what happened at the end of Game 3, where coach Larry Drew benched him for the final possessions. No player in this series is failing to meet his potential as much as Josh Smith. When you consider the Hawks are up 2-0, that tells you a lot about how badly the Magic are playing.
The X-Factor: Quentin Richardson is a versatile veteran who can knock down big shots, defend, and has been hot lately, one of the few Magic players in that situation. With JRich out, QRich could step up and be a big difference maker. He fits in well with the Orlando system of catch-and-shoot, and has no hesitation in his jumper. Richardson is also a competent defender, and can help the Magic create turnovers. If he steps up, the Magic's perimeter attack could improve, and that shifts everything in this series. Conversely, if Richardson tries too hard and takes too much on himself, he can shoot them out of it. Marvin Williams better be prepared to play, as well as Josh Smith, when he's matched up on him.
The Sticking Point: The Hawks have committed more and more to playing Dwight Howard physically. Game 3 was the first game where it worked. Behind a surprisingly raucous crowd, the Hawks had things well in hand. Then, in the third quarter they opened the door again by seizing up. They let the Magic back in it and nearly lost, needing a desperation three from Jamal Crawford. A bank shot, at that.
The Hawks have soundly outplayed the Magic in this series, and yet, if it weren't for a desperation heave from Crawford, the Magic have the 2-1 lead. This series is close, it's physical, it's intense. It has some offensive hijinks on both sides, but it's also got periods of flawless execution. Game 3 was a battle, Game 4 could be a war.