Around the Association presented by AirTran Airways - Game 1 vs. Hawks
Well, on Saturday night at Amway Center, Howard racked up a playoff career-best 46 points and added 19 rebounds and Nelson accumulated 20 of his 27 points in the third quarter, but Orlando still dropped Game 1 to Atlanta.
While Superman and Mighty Mouse enjoyed spectacular performances, the rest of the team did not. Hedo Turkoglu shot 2-of-9 from the field, Brandon Bass went 0-of-4, Jason Richardson connected on just two of his eight field goal attempts and the reserves combined to go 4-of-13.
Somewhat startled considering the Magic swept the Hawks last season in the conference semifinals and won by an average margin of 25 points per game, falling in Game 1 was certainly unexpected of sorts.
Most importantly, however, the Magic need to spend the next two days watching film and making the necessary adjustments for Game 2, which in many ways will be a must-win for Orlando before the series shifts to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 25 points, while Jamal Crawford scored 23 and Al Horford and Josh Smith tallied 16 and 15, respectively.
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All-Star center Dwight Howard was beyond phenomenal. He single-handedly destroyed all the national media talk of Jason Collins being a Superman stopper by torching the Hawks for a career playoff-high 46 points, while also grabbing 19 rebounds.
He smashed Atlanta in the face right out of the gate by recording a team playoff-best 31 points in the first half.
Jameer Nelson was equally as stellar after the break, posting 26 of his 27 points after halftime.
But that’s where this positive story for the Magic ends. The rest of the team combined to shoot just 8-for-34 from the field on their way to a mere 20 points.
The Magic collectively allowed the Hawks to shoot a scorching 51.4 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from long range.
“Outside of those two guys, we struggled,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I’ve got to find a way that we can guard them more effectively and we’ve got to find some answers on the offensive end of the floor to get some of these other guys going too.”
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Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson thrived last year against Atlanta in a sweep of the conference semifinals and again prospered on Saturday in Game 1 of their First Round series with the Hawks.
But the rest of the current team – which either earned very little playing time in last year’s series or were simply not a part of the club – struggled mightily.
Perhaps it was an inability to handle the playoff pressure or maybe they just haven’t figured the Hawks out yet.
Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson, for instance, who both came to Orlando as part of December’s blockbuster trades, couldn’t get into any rhythm. They combined to shoot 4-of-17 from the field for just 10 points.
Also, Ryan Anderson, who recently had been one of the Magic’s best performers over the last few games of the regular season, and Brandon Bass had generally no influence on Saturday’s contest. They both failed to score and grabbed five rebounds combined.
Orlando also had a difficult time defending Atlanta's main weapons. Joe Johnson (25 points), Jamal Crawford (23), Al Horford (16) and Josh Smith (15) all enjoyed solid efforts.
This series, moreover, is practically impossible to forecast. I can easily see Orlando win four straight over Atlanta and finish the Hawks in five games. I also, on the other hand, can see Atlanta challenge Orlando every step of the way and this series turn into a long and grueling affair.
The most important thing, however, is that nobody should be pressing a panic button. Just go back to 2009 – the year Orlando advanced to the NBA Finals – when the Magic lost Game 1 in heartbreaking fashion to the 76ers in the First Round. They even went down 2-1 in that series before bouncing back and finishing Philadelphia off in six games.
I just think ultimately Dwight Howard won’t allow this team to buckle and let a Game 1 defeat impact their ultimate goals. He will make sure his teammates are focused.
I also can’t imagine that the supporting cast of the Magic will struggle to the extent they did on Saturday. They realize they need to step up their performances and I anticipate them to be much more aggressive in Game 2 and the rest of the series.
"That's a great thing about a playoff series. We have another game and we have to prepare for this," Jameer Nelson said.
And while the Magic were unable to create a positive experience for their fanbase in Game 1, the organization has already made some memorable moments for the Orlando faithful this postseason.
The Magic headed out into the community on Friday and Saturday and hosted a number of giveaway contests to reward the loyal followers of their social media.
Here are some of the highlights from their tour throughout Central Florida:
Fan Three-Point Shot Contest: WATCH
The Great White Ball Search: WATCH
Face the Cookie Competition: WATCH
Blue Light, White Light: WATCH
Rock, Paper, Scissors Faceoff: WATCH
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