Around the Association presented by AirTran Airways - Game 6 vs. Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks possessed the necessary apparatus to win a close game. They had enough firepower in the critical moments of the fourth quarter to secure victories on their home floor.
Incontrovertibly disenchanted and disheartened, the Orlando Magic went through the same rollercoaster ride during their three contests in Atlanta during this First Round Series. They started relatively sluggish; they mounted a furious rally in the second half but ultimately didn’t have the arsenal to overcome the very talented and athletic Hawks.
As a result of their 84-81 defeat on Thursday in Game 6, the Magic’s season concluded. While the franchise had championship aspirations this season, this offseason begins with plenty of wonder.
Much of the post-season analysis will begin with the examination of the trades that Orlando completed in December. Fans will have their opinions and the organization will dissect what went right and what went wrong in an effort to improve for next year.
One thing stands clear, however: Dwight Howard continues to develop into one of the best centers of all-time. In a series in which he erupted for extraordinary statistics, including a 25-point and 15-rebound effort in Game 6, Howard is well on his way to joining some of the other elite legends to ever play the game.
For now, though, the only thing the Magic can do is figure out how they can improve and continue to strive for the ultimate prize.
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He diligently puts up shot after shot, day after day throughout the entire year in an attempt to bring his game to the highest level humanly possible.
He’s widely known as one of the best practice players in the league and one of the finest pure shooters in the game.
So with the contest on the line in a do-or-die situation, the Magic were extremely comfortable putting the fate of their season in the hands of Redick.
Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out. Redick’s potential game-tying three-point attempt with 3.9 seconds remaining bounced off the rim and Orlando’s final opportunity at a chance to even the game never really materialized.
“I got a great look, it felt good, a little to the left and a little long, but it felt good leaving my hands,” he explained.
Sadly, it’s a feeling that will linger with the Magic guard for quite some time.
“I think it’s a cruel joke that I’ll have to have that replay in my mind everyday for the next five months, six months, eight months, however long it is until we play again,” he said in the locker room following the game. “It sucks.”
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It was very apparent in mid-December that the Magic were not playing well. They had lost five of six and it started to feel like the team was getting stale.
As a result, President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith opted to shake up the roster by signing off on two separate deals in which Orlando acquired Gilbert Arenas from Washington and Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark from Phoenix.
While certainly J-Rich and Turk showed signs throughout the year of being major assets, in the Magic’s First Round series against the Hawks neither was particularly effective.
Gilbert Arenas, on the other hand, showed positive signs in the playoffs, especially in Game 4 when he erupted for 20 points. But it was very apparent early on after he joined the Magic that Arenas was still trying to recover from knee problems that had impaired his last three seasons.
There is no way of knowing how the “old” team, which included Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus, would have performed if those deals were not made. In effect, trying to hypothesize what would have happened is probably unnecessary.
Considering the disappointing finish, however, many curiosities will be raised this summer as to whether the Magic will try to make another big splash in the trade market.
Based on the team’s performance, it’s very noticeable that the Magic need a go-to wing scorer who is willing to consistently drive to the hoop and they also need more size up front.
The Hawks possessed a pair of guards that had the ability to propel their team when things mattered most.
Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford deserve to be praised for their outstanding performance in this series.
In Game 6, for example, Johnson recorded 23 points and 10 rebounds and Crawford, who hit big shot after big shot after big shot throughout the six games, collected 19 points.
Though the Magic are very talented, they tend to rely too heavily on their 3-point shooting. Like it was in Game 4 when Orlando went just 2-of-23 from beyond the arc, Game 6 was virtually the same dismal outside shooting (5-of-19).
It’s generally a common formula in the NBA. Elite teams have perimeter players that can beat you in a variety of ways (attacking the rim, step-back jumpers, posting up defenders and most importantly, drawing fouls). The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, the Heat have Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, the Celtics have Paul Pierce and the Spurs have Manu Ginobili.
While the Magic have the perfect building block in Dwight Howard, who indisputably is the most dominant player in the NBA, it would be ideal at some point for the Magic to add on a wing player that has what Johnson and Crawford provide for the Hawks.
It will be intriguing to see if this facet will be addressed in the offseason in an effort to continue pushing for the big prize.
Although Howard has consistently maintained throughout his time with the Magic that he loves Orlando, wants to win the city a championship and would like to remain with the franchise, it never hurts to hear those soothing words one more time.
So even though the Magic faithful were dealt a difficult blow by the team’s elimination courtesy of a Game 6 loss to the Hawks, they should take solace in the fact that Howard remained consistent with his message that he wants to win a title for this city.
“It’s going to get better,” Howard said as his message to the fans. “Just keep believing. I’ll keep making Orlando the best place to play. I’ll do whatever I can to lead my city. I love Orlando.”
While the national media will likely continue to make Howard’s potential chance at free agency a story in the wake of superstars such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony maneuvering their way to other cities, D12 would prefer for all the speculation to stop.
“Let’s not even talk about it,” he said. “There’s no need to bring it up. Right now I’m trying to figure out how can I get myself better for next season, not about what team I’m going to play for. Right now, I’m with the Magic. So all the speculation can stop. There’s no need to talk about it.”
So let all the chatter about Howard heading elsewhere end right there.