Denton's Dish: Three Keys for Game 6

OrlandoMagic.com’s John Denton picks the three keys for the Orlando Magic to defeat the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the playoffs Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at Philips Arena:

1. Get off to a strong start. The Magic trailed for 150 of the 192 minutes in the first four games of the series in large part because they started slowly each game. But they played with exceptional energy and intensity in the first quarter on Tuesday, allowing them to grab a lead that they never surrendered. Undoubtedly, it’s easier to play with the lead than it is trying to dig out of major holes all game. And if the Magic can start Game 6 on fire and build a significant lead they could quiet the Atlanta crowd and plant some seeds of doubt in the minds of the Hawks. The Hawks are a great front-running team, but they were repeatedly blown out this season when they fell behind early and packed it in as the game progressed. It could be highly advantageous for the Magic to start strong and put the pressure on the Hawks.

2. Move the ball and make shots. A Magic team that shot just 21 percent from 3-point range in the first four games stroked in 11 threes on Tuesday night. Orlando didn’t rely so much on Dwight Howard inside and instead got plenty of player and ball movement to produce open several shots. Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson each made three 3-pointers, while five other players made one each. The true surprise was that the Magic made great strides in 3-point shooting without J.J. Redick – one of the stars of the game with 14 points – even attempting a shot from beyond the arc. The hope in Orlando is that the confidence and rhythm will carry over to Thursday night and the team will shoot the ball as well in Atlanta as it did in Orlando. If the Magic can get to double digits again in 3-pointers made, the guess here is that they will win and force a Game 7 on Saturday at the Amway Center.

3. Get the ball out of Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford’s hands. The Magic did a much better job getting up into Johnson and Crawford defensively in Game 5, and it showed in the bad shooting results for the two guards. Johnson made just two of 12 shots, while Crawford hit only two of eight shots. Johnson, a three-time all-star, is often a barometer for how the Hawks’ offense performs. He’s eight of 27 (29.6 percent) in the two games that the Magic have won, while he’s 24 of 54 (44.4 percent) in the three victories by the Hawks. Orlando did a much better job of sending double-team help at him earlier to get the ball out of his hands, and Quentin Richardson gives the Magic a better chance one-on-one against Johnson because of his size, strength and grit. Crawford is more difficult to double team because of his ability to pull up from long range and his quickness off the dribble. The Magic must drastically limit one of the two Hawks’ guards because the results have been disastrous so far when both have big games.