Quantcast 2010 Orlando Magic: Magic vs Hawks

 

NBA Playoff Recap - Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 1

(2) Orlando 114, (3) Atlanta 71 - Magic lead series, 1-0


Can we just call it off right now?

It would save a lot of time, money, energy, and fuel if the Orlando Magic were just advanced right now in the NBA playoff bracket. The defending Eastern Conference champions could play very poorly, have half of their roster sidelined, spot themselves a 20-point deficit at the start of each game, and still have an even-money shot at beating the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, this Eastern Conference semifinal is that lopsided. This isn't a varsity team against a junior varsity team; it's more like varsity against freshmen, or maybe even junior high students.

Yes, the Atlanta Hawks have a collection of legitimately athletic specimens, but the outfit from Orlando actually knows how to play basketball. While the Hawks recalled the middle three games of their uneven first-round series against Milwaukee, the rested Magic played a clean and generally efficient game at both ends of the floor. Active, engaged and focused, Coach Stan Van Gundy's group bothered Atlanta on defense and used its balance to great effect on offense. Three Orlando players - Jameer Nelson, Dwight Howard and Vince Carter - scored at least 19 points apiece on a night when Atlanta scored a total of 21 points in the second and third quarters combined. That's not a misprint: Coach Mike Woodson's beleaguered bunch tallied just 10 points in the second quarter and 11 in the third, as the Magic expanded their lead by 39 points and took an 85-44 bulge into the fourth period.



Everything feared by basketball fans in this series came to pass. Everything that stood in the way of a genuinely compelling drama unfolded at Amway Arena before a delighted crowd that knows it has something very good on its hands. Atlanta - playing at its very best - stood a chance of making this a series, but the Hawks very rarely attain an elevated level of quality. The third seed in the East often drifts through its halfcourt sets, lacks a strong mental fiber, and crumbles at the first hint of adversity. All these weaknesses were fully apparent against an opponent that swept its first-round series (versus the Charlotte Bobcats) despite a profoundly subpar outing from superstar center Dwight Howard. Interestingly enough, Howard played only 29 minutes in this game (all five Orland starters played fewer than 30 minutes), but that was because the game had been decided well before the third quarter had ended. A lead in the area of 30-40 points does not merit the continued presence of one's starting five on the court.

 

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That last fact magnifies the extent to which Orlando has already established a stranglehold on this series: Orlando - instead of manifesting rust - used its rest to great effect and was so efficient that it remained rested in advance of Thursday's Game 2. The Magic were hardly taxed, and so even if Atlanta regroups, Orlando should be able to dig in and withstand whatever the Hawks can throw at them. This was a freebie, a game Atlanta didn't really challenge or dispute. Considering the need for the Hawks to prove themselves entering this series, it's hard to see how their confidence can ever recover from this embarrassment.

Think of things this way: Atlanta could be 42 points better in Game 2, and would still lose.

Call this series over. For everyone's benefit. Please.

 

By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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