Quantcast 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round One - Orlando vs Atlanta

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference First Round

(5) Atlanta Hawks vs. (4) Orlando Magic

 

 

The memory of last year’s second-round NBA playoff series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Orlando Magic is impossible to wipe away. When these two teams meet once again in the postseason, all the focus will be on the team that up and quit under the glare of the mid-spring spotlight.

It was a gruesome, grisly and rather pathetic scene roughly 11 and a half months ago: Thrust into the Eastern Conference semifinals, Atlanta – trying to climb up the ladder in the NBA and establish itself as a legitimate title contender – took the opposite turn and disgraced itself in front of national television audiences, not to mention the community of professional basketball. Game after game, the Hawks folded the tents and displayed an absolute lack of any appetite for battle. On four consecutive nights, Atlanta simply submitted to Orlando without putting up much of any resistance.

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In Game 1 of last year’s series, Orlando coasted to a 114-71 victory. Keeping in mind that the Boston Celtics dished out a similar defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals (“The Memorial Day Massacre”), that 43-point loss could have been viewed by the Hawks as a one-game aberration, a bad day at the office which all players and teams endure at some point in their evolution. The professional basketball world was ready, though, to expect Atlanta to come back strong in the following games of the series.

That didn’t happen.

Atlanta lost Game 2 by 14 points, which was terrific in comparison with Game 1 (a 29-point improvement) but hardly anything to make the Magic really sweat. The Hawks disintegrated in the fourth quarter and proved to be relatively easy prey for an Orlando club that – instructively – imploded one series later against the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. Up against a mentally shaky team that included the ever-baffling Vince Carter, Atlanta managed to look like a genuine psychological midget.

Then came Game 3.

 

 

Down 2-0 in last year’s series and returning home to Atlanta for a must-win game, the Hawks – in the eyes of many experts and basketball aficionados – were ready for their breakout performance. Even bad teams, down 2-0 and at home in a best-of-seven playoff series, normally showcase a desperate brand of basketball in the attempt to establish some semblance of competitive parity. When a team is down 3-0, the series is essentially lost, but in a 2-0 series, there’s still a sliver of hope for the trailing team, so it’s in that situation when a professional ballclub is expected to showcase the fullness of its hunger and pride. 

Atlanta, instead, collapsed into a heap and suffered a humiliating 105-75 defeat that, amazingly, wasn’t even that close. The Hawks allowed their season to cave in on them instead of showing the resilience any self-respecting pro team ought to be able to summon in a moment of crisis. The 30-point loss exposed the Hawks as the quitters they were, and after another 14-point loss in Game 4, Atlanta’s embarrassment was complete. Four losses occurred by a minimum of 14 points apiece. The aggregate total of the four losses was 101 points, or an average of 25.25 points per loss. This is the backdrop for this year’s series. This is the subtext for a 2011 postseason reunion between Atlanta and a re-tooled Orlando club that has shed Carter and Marcin Gortat but has brought in Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, among others.

Can Atlanta do anything to be competitive in this series? That’s really the only question worth asking at this point.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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