Denton's Dish: Three Keys for Game 1

OrlandoMagic.com’s John Denton picks the three keys for the Orlando Magic to defeat the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of the playoffs Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Amway Center:

1. Keep Dwight Howard on the floor. With no backup center on the roster and little size, it’s never been more important for Howard to stay on the floor than it will be in these playoffs. That means he has to avoid foul trouble and spats with the officials. Atlanta center Jason Collins is going to try and bait him into fouls with flops and hacks, but Howard must keep his cool. He played 37.6 minutes a game during the regular season and that number might approach 42 minutes during the playoffs if Howard doesn’t get into foul trouble.

2. Keep the turnovers to a minimum. Turnovers have been a major issue all season for the Magic, which ranked 25th in the NBA in giving the ball away during the regular season and had 28 gaffes in the finale against Indiana. Part of the problem is the passing of Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu, who often gamble on high risk plays on the fastbreak. Another issue is Howard’s offensive fouls and three-second calls, which result in more turnovers. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said it will be even more important to limit turnovers against Atlanta because the Hawks usually hold teams to low shooting percentages and are one of the best in the league at not giving up 3-point shots.

3. Use Jameer Nelson to attack. Nelson had his way against the Hawks last spring, carving up Atlanta with his attacking style off pick-and-roll plays. But that was against Mike Bibby and the Hawks have since traded for defensive ace Kirk Hinrich. Nelson is often a barometer for how the Magic play. When he’s getting into the lane and seeking out opportunities to be aggressive, the Magic are usually getting 3-pointers and Howard lobs. The Magic would be wise to run plays for Nelson early in the game to get him into the flow of the game. And undoubtedly Nelson will have the ball in his hands in crunch time because the Magic trust his ability to make the right play with the game on the line.