Denton: Magic-Hawks Game 5 Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
April 26, 2011


ORLANDO – On a night when even the team’s mascot, Stuff, banked in a halfcourt shot during a timeout skit early in the game, the Orlando Magic finally found their shooting strokes from afar and breathed some life back into this best-of-seven series.

The Magic battered Atlanta early and often by raining in 3-pointers from all corners of the Amway Center to win 101-76 going away in send-a-message style to the embarassed Hawks. Orlando staved off elimination, pulled within 3-2 in the series and set the stage for what could be an epic Game 6 in Atlanta on Thursday night.

``I kept telling everybody just because we were up by 16, then 20 and 25 to not let up. I wanted to beat them by 50,’’ said Magic guard Quentin Richardson, who played a major role in holding Joe Johnson to five points on two of 12 shooting. ``This is not a forgiving league. Nobody out there would have felt bad if we would have gotten beat tonight. So we’re not going to care that they got blasted tonight. … It was win or go home so we weren’t going to leave anything to chance.’’

On a night when superstar center Dwight Howard had just one field goal, the Magic played with such energy and desperation that they led by as many as 32 points at one point in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Magic got contributions from several players who have struggled in the series so far: Jason Richardson had 17 points and three 3-pointers, J.J. Redick scored 11 of his 14 points during a first-quarter barrage, while Ryan Anderson chipped in 11 points and another three 3-pointers.

A Magic team that shot just 40 percent from the floor and 21 percent from 3-point range in the first four games of the series finally erupted for 11 3-pointers and shot 41 percent. The Magic led by 13 points after one period, by 23 points at halftime and 26 through three quarters. Similarly, the noise level inside the Amway Center seemed to rise to deafening levels as the one-sided night progressed.

``The pressure is on them now to close us out in Atlanta,’’ Anderson said. ``We have a ton of momentum right now, but we know they’ll be revved up. But they’ll be nervous for us, too.’’

One of the loudest ovations of the night came when Public Address announcer Paul Porter announced that tickets for Game 7 would go on sale Wednesday. Nothing would delight the Magic more than winning in Atlanta and setting up a winner-take-all game at the Amway Center on Saturday night.

Only eight teams in history have come back to win after being down 3-1 in a series, most recently the Phoenix Suns against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006. Of the eight times that teams have rallied back to win, six times it’s been done by the higher-seeded team. The fourth-seeded Magic hope that they’ve finally found the rhythm to beat the fifth-seeded Hawks, but one Hawk player doubted it would happen.

``We are good. We’re still in the driver’s seat. This is just one game,’’ said Jamal Crawford, Atlanta’s leading scorer in the series who had just eight points on Tuesday. ``We’ll come back and get ready for Game 6. We have to come out and act like we are in desperation (mode). You can’t get comfortable. They were the aggressors (on Tuesday), but we have to be the aggressors in Game 6.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Tuesday’s Game 5 at the Amway Center:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Perpetually slow starters throughout the series, the Magic finally opened the game playing with great energy and desperation Tuesday night. Orlando got 11 consecutive points from Redick at one point and led 26-13 after one period.

    At the start of the game, it looked as if the first quarter could produce another troublesome first quarter for the Magic. Orlando missed six of its first seven shots and 11 of 14 after the first seven minutes. And when Howard headed to the bench with his second foul, it looked as if the Magic could fall behind early again.

    But Orlando closed the final 5:40 of the first period on a 16-5 run, remarkably, without Howard. Redick had a dazzling reverse layup under Joe Johnson, drilled two pull-up jumpers, hit another shot off a pick and finally burned the Hawks by sinking another shot as he was hit by Atlanta’s Kirk Hinrich. Redick made his first five shots.

    ``It felt good to see the ball go through the basket and go through consecutively. That was nice,’’ said Redick, who came into the game shooting just 23.1 percent from the floor and one of 12 from 3-point range. ``The last two days that’s the best that my body has felt (since straining a lower abdominal muscle six weeks ago). And having the ball in my hands in the first quarter felt good, too.’’

  • In Games 3 and 4 in Atlanta, the Magic never led by more than two points and never led for more than 63 seconds at any point. But on Tuesday, they doubled up the Hawks in the first period (26-13) and led by a whopping 24 points in the first half.

    Shooting just 21.9 percent from the 3-point stripe in the first four games, the Magic made six of their first 13 tries in the first half. Four different players hit 3-pointers in the first half with Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson connecting for two apiece.

    The first half had to be especially satisfying for Richardson, who was suspended for Game 4 and had to look on from the team hotel as the Magic made just two of 23 3-pointers. He mixed up his game in the first half, twice getting to the rim for layups, twice hitting 3-pointers and drilling two free throws for 12 first-half points.

    ``We made threes and we played with tremendous focus and intensity from start to finish,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``That’s what it’s going to take (in Game 6). It’s going to be much, much, much harder on Thursday and we’ll need to play better on Thursday than we did tonight to get a win up there. We knew we had to win a game in Atlanta. We didn’t get it done the first two times, but we’re going to have to get it done on Thursday.’’

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • Before Tuesday, Howard had played in 180 of a possible 192 minutes in the first four games. So having to sweat out just 29 minutes in Game 5 had to feel like a walk in the park for the Magic’s superstar center.

    Howard, who scored 46 points in Game 1 and 100 through the first three games, had just four field goal attempts (and one make) for a couple of reasons. One, the Hawks swarmed him inside more than ever, and he was more than happy to keep the ball moving with the perimeter players knocking down shots.

    Secondly, the Hawks were not going to let Howard get off easy shots with Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia wrapping up Howard the way a linebacker would a tailback. Howard got to the free throw line 10 times, knocking down six.

    ``This is bigger than ourselves right now,’’ Howard said of the Magic’s attempts to pull off a historic rally. ``Nothing is going to be easy in this series and I told my guys that if we wanted this we’d have to go and get it.’’

  • The Hawks often dogged it down the stretch in the regular season and got blown out several times. Such was the case again Tuesday when the Magic smothered them defensively and poured on the points with big shots.

    Atlanta shot just 36 percent for the game and had only one starter in double figures (Josh Smith with 22 points).

    The Magic were able to get the ball out of the hands of Johnson and Crawford by trapping them on double teams and sending help defense at them earlier in possessions. And when those two top scorers made just four of 20 shots, the Hawks crumbled on both ends of the floor. They had only 35 points at halftime, 53 points through three periods and pull their starters midway through the fourth.

    ``We shot the ball well, but I thought we got the lead because our defense was really good early in the game,’’ Quentin Richardson said. ``It got physical out there, but that’s playoff basketball. If you are going to foul somebody, make it count. We’re getting hit pretty hard, so why should we go out there and give out love taps? I’m not talking about doing anything dirty, but go out there and foul them as hard as they are hitting us and hitting Big Fella (Howard).’’

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Howard often amazes with his energy in the low post, but one effort in the first quarter was evident of how much the Magic poured into the game Tuesday. Howard darted between two defenders, tipped a rebound once, twice and finally a third time before he was ultimately fouled by a Hawks player. The effort was recognized by the Amway Center crowd, who showered Howard with a standing ovation.

    There’s probably not five players on the planet who could have pulled off the play that Howard did for the Magic.

  • Pachulia was booed by Magic fans for his role in the fight with Richardson in Game 3 and then more jeers came down after the Magic reserve center collared Howard around the neck of a layup attempt late in the third quarter.

    Remarkably, there was no flagrant foul called on the play despite Pachulia making no attempt on the ball whatsoever. Howard was furious about the play, but did not retaliate this time around. Van Gundy pleaded with veteran referee Joey Crawford to protect his star player at the end of the quarter. The hope is that the NBA’s league office will issue a flagrant foul upon further review.

    ``No, it couldn’t have gone as a flagrant because it was (against) Dwight,’’ Van Gundy said sarcastically. ``He has not been flagrantly fouled this year. So we were not surprised.’’

    Despite Howard being the most fouled player in the NBA this season – 765 times during the regular season and 55 times in the playoffs – still no defender has been whistled for a flagrant foul this season against the superstar center.

    ``He understands that he has to keep his cool,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``For the people who want to be critical of him, go run on the treadmill for 40 minutes and every two or three minutes I’m going to hit you as hard as I can upside the head. What I want you to do is keep running and not react at all, don’t say anything to me, don’t look at me wrong or hit me back. Don’t do anything and I just get to whack you as hard as I want for three minutes. The referees think they are just hard fouls and they have their guidelines and that’s fine. I’m not criticizing the referees. But for the media who criticize Dwight for the few times that he retaliates, understand that’s what you are criticizing.’’

  • 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.