Orlando has played themselves into a 3-1 hole after another lackluster offensive effort against the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks held Orlando to just 39% shooting and held on to narrowly escape with an 88-85 victory over the Magic. Jamal Crawford (25 points) and Joe Johnson (20 points) led the Hawks in this potentially backbreaking win over Orlando. Dwight Howard led the Magic in scoring again with 29 points and 17 rebounds, but his turnover trouble continued as he added 8 more tonight. Howard came into the game averaging 6 turnovers and that average will rise after tonight’s performance.
Both teams entered the contest slightly short handed after a testy Game 3 where Za Za Pachulia and Jason Richardson received technicals and subsequently ejections for Game 4. Despite the loss of a “big” to defend Howard in the post the Hawks were able to continue their stellar defense on the Magic players without the #12 on their backs. That ability to limit Orlando’s supporting cast has been the formula to beat the Magic ever since Boston exposed Orlando in the conference finals last May. Coach Van Gundy turned to his other Richardson, Quentin, to try to cope with the loss of Jason in the starting lineup. Figuring to keep his bench rotation intact and use the size of Q against Johnson to start the game. Unfortunately that plan backfired as Q was only able to manage 7 points and 4 rebounds. It was Gilbert Arenas who teamed with Howard to help Orlando stay in the game with his 20 points and 5 rebounds off the bench but it was not enough.
Orlando’s inability to make shots has been the recurring theme throughout the series and their frustration is starting to bubble over. Coach Van Gundy who is always quick to take the blame for his team’s loss would not take the blame for this one. Van Gundy called out his team from Nelson to Turkgolu saying “They are professional athletes, there is going to be pressure… they have to make shots” The series continues to be low scoring and Orlando is baffled by the length and perimeter pressure of the Hawks. Maybe Coach Van Gundy should take another look at the offensive sets that has forced his team into this 3-1 deficit. While this is not training camp and a complete new offense can’t be constructed in such a short time, there has to be some offensive wrinkles that can be added to get better possessions and shots. In order to turn this series around Orlando might need to run wild a la the Phoenix Suns in an effort to stay away from the Hawks’ half court defense. Rebound and run. Have Howard race the Atlanta bigs down the floor and they are sure to end up with easy baskets or a nest full of fouls.
Atlanta is not at all intimidated by the one man Magic show and improve to 6-2 against Orlando dating back to the regular season with this win. The Magic will try to avoid elimination on Tuesday back in Orlando.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com