Denton: Magic-Hawks Game 6 Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
April 28, 2011


ATLANTA – In a cruel, twisted sort of way, it was only fitting Thursday night that the biggest play of a game that ultimately ended the Orlando Magic’s season came down to an offensive rebound.

As had been the case all night long, Atlanta got the rebound and the Magic didn’t.

And because the Magic struggled on the boards early in the game and again at the end, their season abruptly ended in the first round – well short of the stated goal of winning a championship.

When the Magic couldn’t corral an offensive rebound with 10 seconds to play in a one-point game, they were forced to foul Jamal Crawford, who buried two free throws. Orlando was left with a clear 3-point look by J.J. Redick to tie, but when the shot hit off the back iron, the stunned Magic were left to contemplate an 84-81 Game 6 defeat and a 4-2 loss in the series to the rival Hawks.

``I think it’s a cruel joke that I’ll have to have that replay in my mind for the next five months, six months, eight months or however long. It (stinks),’’ said Redick, the second option on the play who was freed up perfectly by a Dwight Howard screen. ``Sometimes it comes down to an offensive rebound and a three to tie and we didn’t come up with either play.’’

An Atlanta team that the Magic whipped by a historic 101 points last spring advances to face the Chicago Bulls in the second round. As they had in five of the six games in the series, the Hawks built a double-digit lead, was able to withstand a Magic charge and never surrendered the lead. The Magic lost three playoff games in Atlanta by margins of four, three and three points, but they only led in the fourth quarter of those games once and that was by one point.

``I thought that one of our biggest problems was – and we knew this going in – the Hawks are a talented team and they are very good when they play from out in front,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``Five of the six games they had double-figure leads in the first half and we won one of them. If you get them down, they’re just not as good coming from behind. But they’re great from out in front, and they were constantly playing from out in front in this series.’’

The Magic were trying to become just the ninth team in history to rally and win a series after falling behind 3-1. It was done most recently in 2006 by the Phoenix Suns against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic’s hopes looked promising following Tuesday’s 101-76 rout of the Hawks, but Orlando was unable to win Thursday and force a winner-take-all Game 7 back at the Amway Center.

The Magic went 0-5 this season in Atlanta, birthplace of Howard, Orlando’s superstar center. The Magic lost twice in Atlanta in the regular season and three of the playoff defeat came before unusually loud crowds at Philips Arena.

``It’s a frustrating finish because they rebounded well and we didn’t. They just played harder than us,’’ said Howard, who had 25 points and 15 rebounds and averaged 27 points and 15.5 rebounds in the series. ``It’s a bad feeling because we should never let a team outwork us.’’

Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson, whose desperation 3-point heave at the buzzer was blocked by Josh Smith, was severely limited in the game because of a gash in his left heel that needed seven stitches to close after he stepped on a piece of glass Tuesday afternoon. Richardson had trouble slowing down Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, who had 23 points and seven of Atlanta’s 14 offensive rebounds. It was Johnson, who tipped the rebound out to Crawford with 10 seconds to play, making the Magic’s final bid tougher.

``We had really dominated the boards and the second-chance points the entire series and tonight it was the other way around. Especially in the first half, the 10 offensive rebounds are what got them going,’’ Van Gundy said. ``It was sort of fitting that what sort of put us away was that we couldn’t get a rebound on the last stop.’’ Hedo Turkoglu had 15 points and three 3-pointers, but he missed eight of 13 shots. Jameer Nelson added 11 points, six assists and three steals. But others struggled around them as Richardson had just seven points, Redick scored six points and Ryan Anderson added five points.

``We still know that we’re the better team,’’ Anderson said. ``We showed that in (Game 5) and that’s how we can play. I’m not going to say that we didn’t come out with the same focus or the same energy because we were extremely focused, but they just hit big shots. The whole series, guys stepped up for them and hit huge shots.’’ Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Thursday night’s Game 6 from Philips Arena:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Down 71-59 early in the third period and given up for dead by some after Crawford made consecutive 3-pointers, the Magic made a dazzling run to give themselves a chance down the stretch.

    With Howard and Nelson running the pick-and-roll almost to perfection, the Magic ripped off a 14-5 run to draw within two points of the lead. Howard had three dunks in the run, including a spectacular one in which he reached back over his head and grabbed a 3-point miss by Anderson and stuffed it home.

    ``We knew how we needed to play them, we didn’t do that and that’s why they won the series,’’ Howard said. ``The better team is moving on.’’

    Anderson’s 3-pointer with 4:41 to play got the Magic within 76-74, but he missed another 3-point shot a minute later that could have given Orlando its first lead since 12-10 in the first period.

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • Thursday’s first half was one that Anderson will want to forget as soon as possible.

    In six minutes of action, Anderson did not score, grabbed just one rebound and committed three fouls. He gave up back-to-back follow dunks to Atlanta power forward Al Horford, prompting a heated exchange with Van Gundy along the Magic bench during a timeout.

    Anderson then made matters much worse when he fouled Jamal Crawford, the NBA’s all-time leader in four-point plays, on a corner 3-pointer. Anderson then argued the call and was whistled for a technical foul that turned the possession into a five-point swing for the Hawks.

    ``Emotions are going and they might make some calls that you don’t think are the right calls,’’ Anderson said. ``With my technical I guess I should have kept more composure, but it was the heat of the game. It was a hard-fought game, and we battled and were resilient, but it’s just frustrating for us right now.’’

  • Remarkably, in a must-win game where energy, intensity and playing hard should be a given, the Magic were badly outworked and outhustled in the first half on the glass.

    Atlanta had nearly as many offensive rebounds (10) in the first half as the Magic had total boards (13). The Hawks held a 26-13 advantage on the glass in the first 24 minutes, outscoring the Magic 6-2 in second-chance points. The work on the glass helped Atlanta overcome 32 percent shooting in the first two quarters and lead the Magic 42-36. Johnson and Horford combined for seven offensive rebounds in the first half alone.

    Said Van Gundy: ``We weren’t getting bodies on people at all. There were some of them at the glass, but balls were falling short. (Al) Horford had a big one in the fourth quarter, but it was an airball by Josh Smith. We were almost defending too well. They got offensive rebounds on at least four airballs. They just came up with the loose balls and we didn’t put bodies on people.’’

    FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, said this series loss wouldn’t affect his decision in 2012. He professed his love for Orlando and the Magic fans and vowed to come back better next season. He made a major jump offensively this season, something that made him a strong candidate in the race for the MVP.

    ``(The 2012 free agency) has nothing to do with right now,’’ Howard said. ``There’s no need for me to comment on it, talk about it or bring it up. Right now, I’m going to figure out how I’m going to make myself better for next season and not what team I want to play for. Right now, I’m with the Magic, so all of the speculation should stop. There’s no need to talk about it.’’

  • At long, long last, an opposing center who took a wild swing at Howard on a foul was whistled for a flagrant foul. The culprit was Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia, who whacked Howard across the arms on a post move late in the third quarter.

    Entering Game 6, Howard had been fouled a NBA-most 765 times during the regular season and another 55 times in the playoffs without an opponent once being whistled for a flagrant foul. The Magic have repeatedly complained to the league about the whacks that Howard takes on a nightly basis.

    Seconds before the flagrant foul, Hedo Turkoglu was whistled for a flagrant foul for a hard hit on Pachulia on a layup attempt.

  • The refereeing crew of Derrick Stafford, Michael Smith and Bill Kennedy blew a call in the third quarter when the Magic were whistled for an eight seconds backcourt violation.

    The refs were going off the shot clock, which had ticked down to 16 seconds. What they failed to remember was that the shot clock started when Howard grabbed a rebound, but the ball was knocked out of his hands and out of bounds before he could make an outlet pass. The eight-second count should have started over, but it did not.

  • Howard said he had a tough time coming up with words for his teammates after the loss, but he wanted to pass along a message to Magic fans about his commitment to bringing a championship to Orlando someday.

    ``It’s going to get better and just keep believing. I’m going to keep making Orlando one of the best places to play,’’ Howard said. ``I’ll do whatever I can to lead my city. I love Orlando, so I’ll do as much as I can. I put in a lot of hard work (last) offseason and I’m going to continue to do that. Our fans deserve a championship and I’m just going to keep fighting. That’s all I can do is keep fighting.’’

  • 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.