Denton: Magic-Hawks Game 1 Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
April 16, 2011


WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Howard set a new franchise record by scoring 31 points in the first half and equaled Tracy McGrady’s 46-point effort in 2003 with his dazzling start-to-finish effort.

    Howard not only made 16 of 23 shots and 14 of 22 free throws, but he also racked up 14 fouls on the four Atlanta players who took turns guarding/fouling him throughout the night.

    Howard scored the Magic’s first 12 points of the game and he had another 19 in the second period alone to give him 31 by halftime. He was unstoppable inside in the first half, hitting 11 of 16 shots and nine of 11 free throw attempts.

    But this proved to be an early sign that the Magic were in trouble: Orlando trailed 53-48 at the half despite Howard’s hit start.

    Howard’s one negative were his eight turnovers, four of which came off three-seconds calls. He was hit with back-to-back whistles to start the fourth quarter for being in the lane too long.

    ``We just have to keep playing, run and make them play the pick-and-roll and pound them on the inside,’’ Howard said.

  • Nelson didn’t make a shot and had just one point in the first half, but he finally got going in the third period in an attempt to provide Howard some much-needed support.

    Seconds after the Magic fell down 71-54 in the third period, Nelson went on a tear by scoring 15 consecutive points with three 3-pointers and three layups. He made eight of 12 shots and four of seven 3-pointers in the third period as he valiantly tried to get the Magic back into the game.

    Nelson’s 20-point explosion in the third period topped his previous franchise record of 19 points in a quarter set last spring against the Charlotte Bobcats. Despite all of Nelson’s efforts in the third, Orlando still went into the fourth quarter trailing 85-71 because of its inability to get defensive stops.

    Said Nelson: ``We have to go back and look at some things, re-evaluate some things like our defensive plans as a team.’’

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • A Hawks team that had had trouble scoring against the Magic in the regular season routinely gashed Orlando in the second and third periods to build a big lead.

    Atlanta made a shocking 14 of 18 shots in the second period to outscore the Magic 38—29 just before the half. Atlanta’s 38 points were the second most points allowed by the Magic in a quarter this season, trailing the 39 given up against Utah in November.

    ``I was disappointed obviously in our inability to guard them, but I wouldn’t say I was surprised. We know those guys are good players and they had a good day,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We’re obviously not going to stop everybody every night. But we really were not able to do a good job on any of their five key guys. We’ve got to decide on a better way to play those guys.’’

    And the inability to stop the Hawks carried over into the third quarter when the Hawks did as they pleased in halfcourt sets and forced the Magic into several fouls.

    After the Magic had gotten within 57-53, Atlanta went on a 14-1 run to push its cushion back to 17 points.

    Atlanta made 10 of 15 shots in the third period, meaning over a 24-minute stretch of the game it hit 24 of 33 shots against a vaunted Magic defense that was fifth in the league in defensive field goal percentage during the regular season.

    ``There was just a stretch there where we got really flat defensively and Joe (Johnson), (Kirk) Hinrich and Jamal (Crawford) were breaking us down one-on-one,’’ Magic forward Quentin Richardson said. ``They put up a lot of points and there just never was much resistance out there defensively from us.’’

  • Howard had 31 first-half points, but the problem was that the focus on getting the ball inside disrupted the rest of the offense. While Howard made 11 of his first 16 shots, the rest of the Magic players were just two of 15 in the first half.

    And the lack of involvement from players other than Howard was a problem from the start for the Magic. The superstar center scored Orlando’s first 12 points before another player had a point.

    Hedo Turkoglu (two of nine, six points), Brandon Bass (zero of four, zero points), Jason Richardson (two of eight, four points) and Nelson combined to score just seven points in the first two quarters.

    J.J. Redick, back after a 17-game injury absence, missed his two 3-point shots and scored four points. Gilbert Arenas had six points, but turned the ball over three times while overdribbling. And Ryan Anderson, who had played some of the best basketball of his career of late, didn’t score in 24 minutes as Atlanta stayed on Orlando’s 3-point shooters and refused to give up uncontested shots.

    ``They eliminated our strengths, eliminated out 3-point shots,’’ Anderson said. ``Dwight had a huge game, but they played everybody else to not touch the ball. Obviously we’re going to have to make some changes. We can do some things a lot better. We need to get more ball movement, get the defense moving around more instead of just throwing the ball in to Dwight and standing around.’’

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Suspended twice during the regular season for picking up 18 technical fouls, Howard picked up his first technical foul of the playoffs on Saturday.

    Upset about giving up an offensive rebound to Zaza Pachulia, Howard pulled the Hawks’ backup center to the ground by snatching him around the shoulder. Howard was whistled for both a personal foul and a technical foul on the play.

    The technical foul slate is wiped clean in the playoffs and players are suspended for a game after picking up their seventh technical foul. Howard got all the way up to six technical fouls during the run to the NBA Finals in 2009, but he was able to avoid a league-mandated one-game suspension.

  • Orlando’s bench has been in disarray for weeks as Redick recovered from a lower abdominal strain, and the reserves got a boost on Saturday with the shooting guard’s return. And his start was promising when he converted a twisting, reverse layup seconds after checking into the game late in the first period.

    But the reality is that Redick could have a hard time staying on the floor in this series because of Atlanta attacking him with Johnson when he’s in the game. Johnson is one of the game’s most skilled one-one-one players – they don’t call him ``Iso Joe’’ for nothing – and Redick is going to struggle to contest the shots against a bigger and quicker player.

    ``( Joe Johnson) is 6-foot-8, he’s tough and he can shoot over guys,’’ Redick said. ``He’s one of the best (shooting) guards in the league.’’

    Richardson on Johnson could be the better matchup for the Magic because of his willingness to fight Johnson in the post and defend him in one-on-one plays.

  • You could have never guessed it based on the way they played on Saturday, but the Hawks entered the playoffs on a six-game losing streak. The last team to do that was the 1989-90 Golden State Warriors, which went on to defeat the Utah Jazz.

    Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith was a player on that Warriors team.

  • There are 750 tickets remaining for Tuesday night’s Game 2. For tickets, call 407-89-MAGIC or 1-800-4-NBA-TIX.


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    John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.