Around the Association presented by AirTran Airways - Game 4 vs. Hawks
Of course the particulars were different (dissimilar stats, moments and even players since two guys were suspended). But the flow of the game was almost identical (Hawks take control early, go up by double digits, Magic storm back before Atlanta closes it out with a valiant finish) and the final score was nearly the same.
The most critical stat for Orlando in Game 4 was its dismal 3-point shooting (2-for-23) as the Magic lost another heartbreaker to go down 3-1 in this best-of-seven First Round series.
Not having Jason Richardson, who is the Magic’s most lethal shooter from long distance, turned out to be grave and others such as Hedo Turkoglu (0-for-6 including missing a potential game-tying trey at buzzer), J.J. Redick (0-for-3), Ryan Anderson (0-for-4) and Jameer Nelson (0-for-4) continue to shock us with their collective inability to bury long range shots.
It’s remarkable considering Orlando led the league in 3-pointers made during the regular season and recognizing that the Magic had plenty of quality looks from long range on Sunday.
The best storyline for the Magic turned out to be an unexpected one as Gilbert Arenas, who has struggled mightily since being traded to Orlando, enjoyed a spectacular performance with 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting.
Dwight Howard, meanwhile, did everything he could to keep the Magic close as he concluded with 29 points and 17 rebounds.
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It takes at least three or four guys posting quality numbers every single night in order to rack up postseason victories.
While Orlando knows what it’s going to get out of Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard every game, it’s still searching for a few other superheroes to support Superman.
With Jason Richardson, second on the team in scoring, suspended, the supporting cast was even thinner for Game 4.
However, D12 was able to get some help from an unexpected place. Gilbert Arenas brought back flashes of his Hibachi days by erupting for 20 points on a 9-for-18 shooting night from the field.
After sitting the pine for all of Game 3, Arenas came out Sunday firing on all cylinders and delivered a performance similar to that of Portland’s Brandon Roy in the Blazers’ Game 4 win.
Sadly for Orlando, the story remained the same. Once again, it was unable to get more than two players involved offensively on a consistent basis.
It's a tale that will have to change if the Magic hope to mount a First Round series comeback.
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In 2009, the year the Magic advanced to the NBA Finals, Orlando was trailing Philadelphia 2-1 in the First Round.
In that series’ Game 4, it was Hedo Turkoglu who buried a last-second game-winning 3-pointer from the right wing. From that point on, the Magic cruised to a series victory by closing out the 76ers in six games.
On Sunday in Game 4 against Atlanta, Turk attempted an almost identical 3-pointer at the buzzer (also from right wing) to try and send the game into overtime. But on this occasion, Hedo couldn’t connect.
Aside from the fact that many of the players are different now from who was on the team two seasons ago, the confidence in Orlando’s perimeter players doesn’t look the same.
When Hedo attempted that 3-pointer in Philly, you couldn’t help but expect him to make it because of how clutch and poised he seemed at that time of his career.
For reasons that remain a mystery, however, that self-confidence doesn’t seem existent at this time for many of the guys in blue and white.
Nonetheless, it’s imperative for Orlando to remain focused and believe that it could become the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and win the series.
Not to disrespect either Johnson or Crawford because both have always been very good offensive players, but the one theme that has existed for both of them is there inconsistency and unpredictability.
In this series against the Magic, however, both of them have been absolutely spectacular.
Crawford, for one, who has bounced around the league and has played for four NBA teams, is averaging 24 points per game in this series, which is 10 points more than his regular season average.
Johnson, similarly, has resembled the player that some thought he would develop into after he delivered a few epic performances in a series against Boston a few years ago.
Generally patient and relentless at trying to get to the rim, the five-time NBA All-Star looks much more mature than what the Magic saw of him last season in their conference semifinal series.
The most important facet of both Johnson and Crawford is there ability to create their own shots in the critical stages of a game.
A component Orlando continues to lack in, Joe and Jamal have shown to be lethal in the clutch.
Crawford, for instance, buried a dagger 3-pointer late in Game 1 and banked in that improbable trey to seal Game 3. Johnson, meanwhile, connected on a few pivotal buckets in Game 4 and also knocked down four crucial free throws.
This Magic team has overcome many unusual obstacles all season and there are still plenty of reasons to believe they can complete a First Round series comeback for the ages.
Don’t believe me? Then take the word of some of Orlando’s key figures:
Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy: “Once we lost Game 1 in Orlando, it became clear to us we were going to have to win our other three home games and win one in Atlanta. Nothing’s really changed about what we have to do.”
Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard: “We get a win and we’ll be fine. We just to do what we did to get that first win in Orlando (when) we played with a lot of energy and hard for 48 minutes.”
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson: “We just have to get stops, shoot the ball with confidence and go out there and play.”
Magic swingman Quentin Richardson: “We can still win this (series). We’re right there. It’s all about us making more stops.”