Denton: Magic-Hawks Game 4 Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
April 24, 2011


ATLANTA – Much like in this increasingly frustrating series, the Orlando Magic could never get over the hump on Sunday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Now, trailing 3-1, the Magic are faced with overcoming a mountain of odds to save their playoff lives.

The Magic dug their way out of an early hole and twice got Game 4 tied in the fourth quarter on Sunday night, but they could never take the lead and had to stomach a crushing 88-85 loss to the Hawks that dropped them into a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

To get out of the first round of the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, the fourth-seeded Magic must now beat the fifth-seeded Hawks three straight games. Game 5 is Tuesday night in the Amway Center. Counting regular-season play, the Hawks have now defeated the Magic in six of eight games this season, including all four times at Atlanta’s Philips Arena.

Only eight teams in playoff history have ever rallied back from a 3-1 deficit, most recently the 2006 Phoenix Suns against the Los Angeles Lakers.

``I just told the team if they don’t still believe that we can win the series to stay in Atlanta,’’ Magic center Dwight Howard said sternly. ``We just have to believe and guys have to make shots.’’

The Magic’s final gasp Sunday night was a desperation 3-point heave from Hedo Turkoglu that found nothing but the back of the rim. It ended an otherwise dreadful shooting night for a Magic team that made just three of 23 shots from the 3-point line.

``Our guys are at the point where they are throwing it up there and not expecting it to go in,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``You have to get yourself through these things and a big, big part of being a professional athlete is being able to handle the slumps and tough times and keep your head into it and bounce back. …

We’re running out of time, so guys have to break out of it soon. So right now mental toughness is as huge as mental toughness.’’

The Magic got 29 points, 17 rebounds and two blocked shots from Howard and a surprising 20 points off the bench from point guard Gilbert Arenas. But there was little else to speak of from a Magic team that shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and 8.7 percent from 3-point range.

Turkoglu (six points) missed 10 of 12 shots and all six of his 3-point shots. Point guard Jameer Nelson (six points, six assists) misfired on nine of 12 shots and missed all four threes. J.J. Redick (two points) and Ryan Anderson (four points) combined to miss all seven of their 3-point shots.

``I don’t know if there’s an answer for what’s going on with our shooting,’’ Redick said. ``We had a rough start, we battled back and we had our chances with plays down the stretch, but we could never get over the hump. I feel like we’re getting good looks, I really do, but I don’t know how to explain it. I wish I did, but I could we would be shooting better than 4 percent.’’

The Magic were without starting shooting guard Jason Richardson, their second-leading scorer during the regular season, because of a one-game suspension for fighting with Atlanta reserve center Zaza Pachulia. In Sunday’s first half, Orlando certainly missed having Richardson – the NBA’s leader this season in 3-point makes and attempts – as they made just one of their first 19 tries from beyond the arc.

Here is a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Sunday’s Game 4 at Philips Arena:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • The Magic were a shocking one of 19 from the 3-point line midway through the fourth quarter before Arenas hit a leaning, off-balance 3-point to tie the game at 68-all. It was the first time that the Magic were even in the game since the start after falling behind by as much as 16 points in the second quarter.

    Out of the rotation in Game 3 and forced to play on Sunday because of the suspension to Richardson and an injury to Chris Duhon, Arenas was in attack mode and playing with confidence to give the Magic offense a spark. Arenas, who said before the game that he felt he should be playing based on his playoff pedigree, took advantage of his opportunity for playing time and made nine of 18 shots, grabbed five rebounds and handed out two assists.

    ``I think you have to give him a ton of credit. I sat him down in the second half of Game 2 and all of Game 3 and he gets a chance to play and plays great,’’ Van Gundy said of Arenas. ``It’s been a very frustrating year for Gil and to come out and perform like that, you have to give an awful lot of credit to Gil. That’s not an easy thing to do.’’

    Arenas made seven of his first 11 shots and had 16 points by the midpoint of the fourth quarter. For a Magic offense seeking a playmaker and someone to attack the rim from the perimeter, it was a welcomed sight.

  • It was hard to take many positives out of the first half, but the Magic’s 16-4 burst right before halftime helped them cut the deficit from 16 points to four points. The Hawks pushed the score back up to 46-37 by halftime, but the Magic at least changed the flow of the game and found some ways to score in that second-quarter rush. Turkoglu had a dunk and two free throws during the run, while Howard had a dunk and a free throw. And the Magic’s offensive momentum carried over to the third quarter when they cut the deficit from nine points to five points by the start of the fourth period.

    The Magic made 60 percent of their shots in the third period, primarily by feeding the ball inside to Howard. Overall in the second half, the Magic shot 52.8 percent and played their best stretch of basketball so far in the series.

    ``We got stops at the end, but they got one offensive rebound that hurt us a little bit,’’ Nelson said. ``We had opportunities to take the lead, but couldn’t get a basket. We’ve been a tough team all year long fighting through battles and adversity and right now isn’t the time to fold. In conflict, you have to step up.’’

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • For the series, the Magic are shooting just 40.3 percent from the floor and 21.9 percent from the 3-point line. The Magic have shot 45.3 percent (Game 1), 34.6 percent (Game 2), 42.5 percent (Game 3) and 39.2 percent (Game 4).

    Making matters worse, a Magic squad that is one season removed from setting the all-time NBA record for 3-pointers in a season has made just six, five, eight and two 3-pointers in four playoff games so far. Nelson (23.8 percent), Jason Richardson (26.7 percent), Turkoglu (13 percent), Redick (8.3 percent) and Anderson (16.7 percent) have all gone into a slump at the same time from behind the arc.

    ``We’re getting good enough looks,’’ Van Gundy huffed. ``All four of Ryan’s were wide open, all but one of J.J.’s were wide open, and I thought Jameer took one tough one, but the other three were wide open. So I don’t know what to tell you with the shooting.’’

  • The 3-point woes against the Hawks are nothing new this season. The Magic trailed 46-37 at the half in large part because of their inability to connect on shots from beyond the 3-point stripe.

    Hitting 3-pointers has been a huge issue all season against a Hawks team that is particularly good at closing out on shooters. The Magic made just 19 of 84 3-point shots against Atlanta during the regular season and hit just 19 of 73 in the first three games of this series.

  • The Magic’s start to the game couldn’t have gone much worse in the first quarter as Atlanta was blazing hot from the field, while Orlando continued to struggle to find any consistent offense.

    The Magic missed their first three shots, seven of the first nine and 12 of 15 as they fell down by 10 early in the first period. Conversely, the Hawks made eight of 14 to start the game.

    By the end of the first period, the Magic had made just five of 20 shots (25 percent), while the Hawks had hit on 11 of 19 tries (57.9 percent).

    Said Van Gundy: ``We have to play a lot better and we have to start games better. The only game that we started well even playing with great energy or intensity was Game 2. Even today, we had mental mistakes early and we broke down late with the game on the line, too. But the problem is that our defense has to be great, great, great because our offense is awful.’’

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Quentin Richardson started in place of the suspended Jason Richardson and made one of the Magic’s two 3-pointers. But he was angry at himself after the game for allowing Joe Johnson to have another big game with 20 points. Actually, Johnson scored seven of Atlanta’s first nine points, went through a long dry spell and closed the game with two floaters and six free throws for the Hawks’ last 10 points.

    Jamal Crawford, Atlanta’s leading scorer in the series at 24 points per game, also torched the Magic for 25 points, six assists and three 3-pointers in the series.

    ``I don’t want to make it about us not making shots because we have to go out there, man up and play defense and stop somebody,’’ Richardson said. ``These guys are good, but (Johnson and Crawford) didn’t average 25 points the whole season against anybody else. So at the end of the day, other people have stopped them and we have to find a way to do it. That’s the absolute bottom line. Neither of those guys averaged that during the season and they are tuning us up right now.’’

  • Howard’s hook shot in the second quarter rimmed out as Atlanta’s Josh Smith illegally used the net to pull himself up for a blocked shot.

    Players are allowed to touch the net, but not the rim on shot attempts, and therefore Smith was whistled for an unsportsmanlike technical foul rather than a goaltending. It seems as though the spirit of the rule is being violated on that play with the net grab clearly affecting the result of the shot. So by virtue of getting just the technical foul instead of the goaltending call, the Magic got just one point out of the possession instead of two.

  • Even as much as he’s hacked, grabbed and pulled, it’s rare to see the 6-foot-11, 272-pound Howard on the floor. But that was the case late in the third quarter when Atlanta reserve Hilton Armstrong jerked Howard down to the floor by the arms.

    Remarkably, there was no flagrant foul called on the play. Van Gundy argued to veteran referee Dan Crawford, but to no avail. Despite being the most fouled player in the league this season, no player has yet to be whistled for a flagrant foul against Howard this season.

  • Despite Sunday’s loss and the 3-1 deficit in the series, there is still a belief coursing through the Magic’s locker room that the team can win this series. ``I’m not going to walk around like the series is over; I’m going to continue to motivate the guys,’’ Howard said. ``We get a win in Orlando and we’ll be fine. Our first win in Orlando we played with a lot of energy and some of us played all 48 minutes. We’re going to continue to play hard because we know it’s not over.’’

    Added Richardson: ``The series isn’t over until they close us out. There’s no quit in this team and no quit in this locker room. They have to win four games. We’re going to do all we can to get this game on Tuesday.’’

    And finally this from Redick: ``We’re confident that we can get a win on Tuesday. When they won Game 1 we knew we had to win at least one in Atlanta and we could still have another chance at that (on Thursday in a potential Game 6). But it’s about protecting our homecourt and putting everything we have into Tuesday night.’’

  • 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.