Poof! Just like that the Orlando Magic have been vanquished by the Atlanta Hawks thus banished from the remainder of the 2011 NBA playoffs. The Magic played from behind like they did most of this series and were unable to overcome the Hawks in this 84-81 series clinching loss. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 24 points, 10 rebounds (a series high), and 4 assists. Jamal Crawford again proved to be a Magic killer scoring 19 off the Atlanta bench. Customarily the Magic were led by Dwight Howard’s 25 points and 15 rebounds followed by Hedo Turkgolu’s 15 points and Jameer Nelson’s 11 points.
This game was a carbon copy of every Atlanta win over Orlando this season, low scoring and ugly. That formula served the Hawks well and proved to be the difference in this series where they were clearly the under dog. Atlanta took a 42-36 lead into half time despite only shooting 35% from the floor. Atlanta grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and forced 9 Orlando turnovers to hold the lead despite their own offensive struggles. Joe Johnson had 10 points and 7 rebounds to close the half and Howard countered with 11 points, 6 rebounds, but added 5 turnovers. Jason Richardson had 7 points in the half and would be scoreless the rest of the way.
More sloppy and wrestling style play ensued in the 2nd half. Both teams were careless and passes were deflected with regularity causing a choppy flow and almost hockey like atmosphere as both teams were constantly reversing skate. Atlanta toyed with the Magic and looked ready to put their proverbial foot on the throat of Orlando on multiple occassions. Turkgolu awoke from his series long slumber to score 10 of his 15 in the 2nd half and the Magic would call Atlanta on their bluff to take control of the game. Orlando would fight their way back throughout only to then take ill advised shots or turn the ball over with opportunities to tie or take the lead themselves. After every Magic run Atlanta had an answer, that answer came in the form of Marvin Williams on multiple occasions. Williams only had 10 points but his shots were timely especially the two 3′s he hit in the 2nd half.
Atlanta would build the lead to as many 12 in the 4th quarter but Howard dunked away that lead cutting the deficit to 5 with 5:12 left to play in the final quarter. As the 4th quarter minutes ticked away, the intensity and drama of this game began to mount. Howard was fouled harder and harder throughout the game and his angst/frustration began to show as the season began to slip away from the Magic. Dwight is not a thug but you could almost see Howard wishing he could meet some of these Hawk “bigs” outside after the game. Howard and the Magic persevered through some questionable officiating and Nelson drove through the lane on consecutive possessions to cut the Atlanta lead to 1 at 82-81 with under a minute to play. The Hawks would get the biggest offensive rebound of the season on their next possession on a back tap from Johnson off of a Williams missed 3. “The biggest thing was the rebounding,” Coach Van Gundy said after the game. “It’s sort of fitting we couldn’t get a rebound on the last stop.” That extra possession resulted in a foul of Jamal Crawford who nailed two free throws with 8.2 seconds to give the Hawks an 84-81 lead. Orlando called a timeout and got JJ Redick wide open on an in-bound play but Reddick’s 3 missed long, however the Magic retained possession. A Jason Richardson fade away 3 was blocked by Josh Smith at the buzzer and the series ended on a sad note for Orlando.
I believe it was Kenny Smith while watching this series in game 3 that said “This isn’t championship basketball”. I couldn’t agree more. With all of the sloppy play this was not an enjoyable series to watch. This series was more like a rugby match, or a throwback to the “Bad Boys” style of basketball in the 90′s. Atlanta closed the series out behind 14 offensive rebounds which equaled 18 2nd chance points and the Hawks got 30 points from their bench. The Hawks in essence had the Magic’s number all season and the curtain has now closed on a very uneven Magic season. Howard said in the post game presser “The better team won the series.” Van Gundy looking dejected put the blame on himself saying “I’m just disappointed not to be able to get my team over the hump.”
And now for their next trick, the Magic will try desperately to not lose Dwight Howard or be forced to trade him Carmelo Anthony style. Howard to his credit would have no talk about his future ““Let’s not even talk about it. There’s no need to bring it up,” Howard said. “Right now, I’ll figure out how can I get myself better for next season, not figure out what team I want to play for. But right now I’m with the Magic. So all the speculation can stop. There’s no need to talk about it.”
Orlando will face questions about their coaching, Gilbert Arenas, the acquisition of another big, and about Howard in general all summer long. The answers are still forth coming and all Orlando fans can hope is that Howard’s love for the city does not disappear like his team did in this playoff series.
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