Around the Association presented by AirTran Airways - Game 5 vs. Hawks
That is the general theme around the Orlando Magic locker room after they assembled their best team performance of this First Round series on Tuesday with a dominant Game 5 victory over the Hawks.
Unlike the last four games when it was exclusively Dwight Howard carrying the Magic, Game 5 was all about communal production.
J.J. Redick was the original catalyst of Orlando’s onslaught as he registered 11 of his 14 points in the first quarter. Jason Richardson, who returned from his one-game suspension, contributed 17 points, Ryan Anderson accumulated 11 and four others scored nine.
After connecting on just two of their 23 3-point attempts in Game 4 and shooting just 22 percent from long range in the series, the Magic finally started cooking from beyond the arc on Tuesday. They went 11-of-26 from 3-point distance, including three connects from both J-Rich and Anderson.
A combination of two early fouls and the Magic’s collective success allowed Howard to rest a bit. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year finished with only eight points and eight rebounds in just 28 minutes.
Also significant was Orlando’s defensive prowess. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, who have both torched the Magic all series, combined for 13 points on 4-of-20 shooting.
Orlando will try to extend this series to a Game 7 with it visits Atlanta for Game 6 on Thursday.
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They were aggressive to the rack, successful from mid-range and unbelievable from beyond the arc.
But lost in the quality offensive performance was the stepped up effort on the defensive end.
Orlando brought an increased level of focus and intensity and forced the Hawks to shoot a dismal 36.2 percent from the field and 25 percent from long range.
“The biggest thing was we played with tremendous focus and intensity really from the start to finish,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “And that’s really what it’s going to take.”
After a phenomenal start to the series by Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, the Magic turned up the defensive tenacity on Tuesday and held the duo to a 4-for-20 shooting performance.
“Our defense was a little bit overshadowed, because we played great defense tonight,” Magic swingman Quentin Richardson said. “That was more important than making shots.”
Now Orlando just has to hope that their defensive effort carries over to Game 6.
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That kind of tension and concern would evolve into implausible celebration and relief. That is exactly what we all crave when it comes to sports – a rollercoaster of emotion from disappointment to jubilation.
Only eight teams in NBA history have erased a 3-1 series deficit to advance. As a result, the odds are still somewhat grim.
But, the one main premise that has always circulated around the Magic organization ever since their memorable NBA Finals run in 2009 is resilience.
In fact, it’s a word you hear a lot around the franchise – largely because the team always believes in making “magic” and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Game 6 in Atlanta won’t be as flashy as Game 5 was. Any time a team goes on the road with their backs against the wall it’s always a tough, grind-it-out type of affair.
In effect, it will be imperative for the Magic to deliver an epic performance fueled with desire and passion. As long as they believe they can win, they have a great chance at accomplishing just that.
After observing this team all season, I even started to wonder if the team I saw in the first four games was the same team as the one I witnessed in Game 5.
It really seemed like the terrifying Monstars from the movie Space Jam had gone into the Magic locker room before Game 1, stole the team’s talent but then somehow installed all that aptitude back for Game 5.
Ball movement was crisp, defense was suffocating and execution was supreme.
After going just 2-of-23 from 3-point range in Game 4, the Magic finally caught fire from downtown (11-of-26). They also didn’t depend so heavily on Dwight Howard, who finished with just eight points and eight rebounds.
Most important, though, was the Magic’s carefulness and alertness. Orlando committed just six turnovers – a number so few that it probably even surprised Stan Van Gundy.
In addition, the Magic limited Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford to a combined 13 points on 4-for-20 shooting from the field.
There is no doubt that if they play like they did in Game 5 the rest of this series, there is a very good chance Orlando will become the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit.
After serving a one-game suspension for shoving Zaza Pachulia, Jason Richardson returned to Orlando’s lineup and provided a much-needed offensive surge.
The Magic’s starting shooting guard knocked down three of his six three-point attempts on his way to a team-high 17 points.
“I thought that J.J. (Redick) and J-Rich had really good nights,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That was really the big part of our offense tonight.”
Richardson expressed prior the game that Orlando needed to play with an increased energy level and find other ways to score.
With their three-point attempts not falling prior to the contest, J-Rich believed the Magic should attack the rack and move the ball to help the team start to find an offensive rhythm.
“We came out swinging,” Jason Richardson explained. “Everybody came out and did their job tonight and we got the win.”
Let’s hope that tenacity carries over to Thursday.