Denton: Magic-Hawks Game 3 Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
April 22, 2011


ATLANTA – Of all the ways to get floored Friday night in Game 3, the Orlando Magic couldn’t have ever seen a knockout punch quite like this coming.

Jamal Crawford’s questionable shot selection was rewarded when his desperation 3-point shot banked off the glass and gave the Atlanta Hawks an 88-84 defeat of the Magic in Friday’s Game 3 at Philips Arena.

Down as many as 14 points in the first half, the Magic came all the way back and took an 84-83 lead with 1 minute to play on Brandon Bass’ clutch jumper from the free throw line. But the Hawks scored the final two baskets of the game – a 15-footer from Al Horford with 46 seconds to play and Crawford’s miracle bank shot from 26 feet out to seal the game.

The defeat dropped the Magic into a 2-1 hole in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series. Game 4 is Sunday night in Atlanta, and superstar center Dwight Howard vowed afterward that he still has supreme confidence that his Magic can win the series.

``It’s still a seven-game series and we’re just down 2-1. They did what they were supposed to do and that’s win the first game here,’’ said Howard, who had 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. ``We just can’t allow them to get all hyped up. I’m just going to keep motivating my teammates because I know we can still win this series.’’

Added guard J.J. Redick: ``We just feel like that’s a game that we should have had. Regardless of whether he hits the back shot or not, we’re still down one point and right there. It’s just a tough loss. We did battle back and played hard in the second half. … You can’t take solace in anything when you lose at this point. Now, there just needs to be an incredible sense of urgency on our part. We need to come back Sunday night (for Game 4) and play our best game of the year.’’

The Magic might have suffered more than a loss when Jason Richardson fought with Atlanta center Zaza Pachulia and landed a shove to the face that could result in him being suspended for Game 4. Pachulia repeatedly head-butted Richardson to provoke the punch and both players were ejected from the game with 2:22 to play.

The Magic didn’t have Richardson on the floor for their last meaningful possession and it ended with Hedo Turkoglu launching a step-back, off-balanced 3-pointer with 30 seconds left on the game clock and 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Turkoglu (nine points) made just three of 11 shots and one of six tries from 3-point range, dropping his field goal percentage to 25 percent from the floor and 17.6 percent from 3-point range.

``A horrible shot, plenty of time left on the shot clock … just a horrible shot,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy fumed.’’

Richardson had 14 points and Jameer Nelson scored 13, but they combined to make just nine of 27 shots. The Magic shot just 42.5 percent in the game and 28.6 percent from the 3-point line. Orlando’s offensive struggles against Atlanta have carried over into the three games of this series and it is making just 40.7 percent of its shots and 26 percent of the 3-point attempts.

``We know who our guys are and it’s not a matter of us trying to find guys. Our guys are Jameer, Turk and J-Rich, but they’re not having a lot of success,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We have to continue to look at ways to try to get them better opportunities and better shots. And they have to make the ones that they get.’’

Crawford, who has torched the Magic for 23.7 points a game in this series, had another 23 points, three 3-pointers and six free throws. He had a four-point play midway through the fourth period after the Magic took a 71-69 lead, but it was the bank at the end that sucked the life out of the Magic’s hopes.

``I just tried to get my comfort zone, my sweet spots and it felt pretty good getting there,’’ Crawford said. ``I thought I got a good look and it just happened to go down for me.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Friday’s Game 3 from Philips Arena:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Howard came into the game averaging 39.5 points and 19 rebounds, but he was held to his season averages by an Atlanta defense that ran bodies at him in waves and dug down more with guards in the post.

    Howard made eight of 14 shots and five of nine free throws. But his final field goal came with 3:21 to play and his final point came with 2:22 left on a free throw. The Magic used Howard primarily to set high picks down the stretch and even though he has a massive advantage inside against the Hawks, they rarely went to him in the post late in the game.

    ``They didn’t anything differently on me,’’ Howard said. ``We just didn’t do as good a job pushing the ball. When they missed shots, we didn’t get out and run like we did in the first two games.’’

  • Down as much as 14 points late in the second period and seemingly on the verge of getting blown out, the Magic stayed in the game with a 9-2 stretch just before the end of the half.

    And that momentum carried over into the third quarter when the Magic played some of their best basketball of the night and tied the game at 55-all. The Magic turned up their defensive intensity, forcing Atlanta to miss 12 of its first 14 shots after halftime. The Hawks made only five of 20 shots in the third quarter, but still led 66-62 heading into the fourth period.

    But the Magic were more puzzled as to why they lacked energy and intensity early in the game than they were happy about the charge they made in the second half.

    ``There was definitely a change in the second half and our sense of urgency picked up,’’ said Redick, who had eight points off the bench. ``They outworked us in the first half, but we also made mistakes. We did a lot of stuff wrong that we had talked about doing. At this point in time you can’t make mistakes and you can’t get outworked. We just weren’t very good in the first half.’’

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • Chaos ensued with 2:22 to play when Pachulia hacked Howard across the arms and the Magic center lashed back and whacked Pachulia across the chin. When Pachulia objected, Richardson came to the defense and was shoved by Pachulia.

    After Pachulia head-butted Richardson twice, the Magic guard struck the Atlanta center in the side of the face and had to be restrained from going after Pachulia. Both players were ejected from the game and could very well be suspended from Sunday night’s Game 4.

    Howard was also whistled for a technical foul on the play, his second technical of the playoffs. Players are suspended one game by the NBA after picking up their seventh technical in the playoffs. Howard had 18 technical fouls in the regular season, resulting in him being suspended from two games.

    ``I didn’t see a tech or I didn’t see the need for a technical foul,’’ Howard said. ``I was in the act of shooting and I got fouled. I don’t think it should have been a technical foul for that. But can’t do anything about it now.

    ``I didn’t elbow him,’’ Howard continued. ``You’ve seen me elbow somebody and that shouldn’t have been a technical foul, especially after you review another play.’’

  • The Magic had some success in Game 2 of slowing down Johnson by crowding him with Jason Richardson and putting extra height on him with Turkoglu. But Johnson was at his best in one-on-one sets Friday, aggressively attacking Orlando’s defenders and torching the Magic for 17 first-half points.

    He made eight of 13 shots in the first half and when the Magic went to double-team him he set up teammates for easy baskets with four assists.

  • When the Magic traded for Turkoglu back on Dec. 18, they hoped he could rekindle the magic that he had two seasons ago when he helped lead the team through playoff series wins against Philadelphia, Boston and Cleveland and to the NBA Finals.

    But Turkoglu has struggled mightily against the Hawks and the long-armed defense of Josh Smith. Too often, Turkoglu has been indecisive when come off screens, passing up open shots and taking others when he’s not on balance. Van Gundy said that Turkoglu’s shooting woes have only added to the offensive inconsistency from the small forward.

    ``Right now, I haven’t been able to get Turk to shoot the ball when he’s open. He fairly consistently passes up very good shots to take very tough shots, which he did at the end,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We’ll keep showing him on film. He’s putting a lot into this, he’s playing hard and wants to do well, but his decision-making on shots is not good. And it’s further compounded by the fact that he’s not shooting the ball well. Then, instead of shooting every good shot that he has he’s taking bad shots and his percentage goes down. It’s a vicious cycle that we have to get him out of.’’

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Nelson, who had a knack this season for hitting long shots at the end of periods, was clearly hit across the hand on his final heave of the first half, but he didn’t get a whistle. Referee Dick Bavetta was standing just a couple of feet away from Nelson and Jamal Crawford, but didn’t call the foul despite Nelson’s vehement objections. BULLET Could it be that struggling point guard Gilbert Arenas won’t play again in this series? Van Gundy wouldn’t commit to playing Arenas in Game 3 after the point guard struggled again in Game 2 with a sloppy turnover.

    The coach opted not to play Arenas Friday night even though the only other true point guard on the roster – Chris Duhon – didn’t dress because of a sprained left ankle. Instead, Van Gundy played Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick at point guard when starter Jameer Nelson rested.

  • It should be pointed out that the Magic’s core group – Howard, Nelson, Turkoglu and Redick – have been in this 2-1 position before still managed to win.

    Two years ago, Orlando lost the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia, rallied to win Game 2 and lost Game 3 on a buzzer-beating basket by Sixers forward Thaddeus Young. The Magic ultimately tied the series at 2-all on a game-winning shot by Turkoglu, won Game 5 in Orlando and captured the series with a Game 6 victory.

    But Van Gundy said some things will have to change for that to potentially happen again, namely the Magic’s intensity level at the start of Sunday’s Game 4.

    ``It’s very disappointing at this time of year, but we didn’t play the game hard enough or with enough intensity on the defensive end in the first half. We just didn’t and on the defensive end we played half a game,’’ Van Gundy said. ``In the playoffs and on the road, I don’t have an answer for it or understand it. But I know this: It’s not going to work. We’re not going to be able to go 24 minutes of playing hard and get a win. We were close and had some chances to win it, but had we put more into the game it could have been a different result. I thought they played a lot harder than we did in the first half.’’

    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.