ORLANDO MAGIC VS. ATLANTA HAWKS GAME 1


GameNight Specifics
NBA Coverage: Game Info
Date: Saturday, April 16
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Amway Center (ORLANDO, FL)
Radio: AM 580 WDBO, AM 1270 WRLZ
Television: Sun Sports, ESPN



PROJECTED MATCHUPS

LINEUPS MAY CHANGE BY GAME TIME


TEAM
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
HAWKS
Kirk Hinrich

Joe Johnson

Jason Collins

Al Horford

Josh Smith

Jamal Crawford

Marvin Williams
MAGIC
Jameer Nelson

Jason Richardson

Dwight Howard

Brandon Bass

Hedo Turkoglu

J.J. Redick

Ryan Anderson





















GAME PREVIEW


The rematch of last season's Conference Semifinals between the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks has been building with anticipation for over a month.

It seemed inevitable shortly after the All-Star break that these two division rivals would clash in the playoffs and on Saturday at 7 p.m. they will finally tip off their series.

While Atlanta won the regular season series 3-1, the outcome was inconsequential evidence of what to expect.

The first meeting was well before Orlando's blockbuster trades; the second collision was during the Magic's stomach virus epidemic, the third was the first game following the deals and the final contest was injury-plagued for the blue and white.

There are plenty of exciting matchups that will prove to be significant, including Joe Johnson vs. Jason Richardson and Josh Smith vs. Hedo Turkoglu.

Like they both did last year when the Magic swept the Hawks and won by an average margin of 25 points per game, Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson expect to flourish.

Superman, for one, posted at least 21 points in three of the four games in last year's series with the Hawks and Nelson scored in double figures in all of the contests.

"We just want to dominate, starting Saturday," Howard said. "It's time for us to step up and play better basketball."

One of the biggest storylines for the Magic heading into the postseason is the status of J.J. Redick, who expects to return for Game 1. Redick missed the final 17 games of the regular season with a lower abdominal strain.

After Game 1, Orlando and Atlanta will have a few days off before returning to Amway Center for Game 2 on Tuesday. The series will shift to Philips Arena in Atlanta for Games 3 and 4 on Friday, April 22 and Sunday, April 24.

If a Game 5, 6 or 7 is necessary, those games will be played on April 26, 28 and 30.

"I think our guys have been waiting for this for a while," Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. " If we're healthy and play at a good energy level and play to our potential, we can beat anybody."





DENTON: NEW SCHEMES, NEW FACES


ORLANDO – When last Orlando and Atlanta met three weeks ago, the Magic limped into Atlanta with just seven fully healthy players. And when the two teams played on Dec. 18, the Magic had four new players who had yet to even go through a single practice together. And in the first two meetings – one a Magic victory, the other a Hawks’ win – Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson was absent because of an illness and an injury.

But regardless of the reasons, Atlanta beat Orlando in three of the four meetings during the regular season. And the one constant was the Magic’s surprising struggles offensively against the Hawks. It was mostly surprising because the Magic gutted the Hawks by a playoff-record 101 points with wins by margins of 43, 14, 30 and 14 points in a playoff sweep last spring.

For a Magic team that had little-to-no problem scoring on the Hawks last season in the playoffs, this season’s numbers were shocking even considering the extenuating circumstances.

In four games against the Hawks, Orlando made just 38.9 percent of its shots (120 of 308) and only 22.6 percent of its 3-pointers (19 of 84) while averaging a meager 82.5 points per game. Those numbers have had a way of grabbing the Magic’s attention as they prepare to face the Hawks Saturday at 7 p.m. of Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs.

``The pace of the game has been slower and the scores of the games have been way down. I think we’re averaging like 82 points a game against them, and that’s just not us,’’ Nelson said. ``We want to be in the high 90s or low 100s if we can. If we could score 200 against them that would be good, too.’’

That will likely be difficult against a fifth-seeded Atlanta team that went to a bigger starting lineup this season in large part because of the beatdown that Dwight Howard and the Magic put on it last spring. The Hawks added defensive ace Jason Collins at center, allowing them to move Al Horford and Josh Smith back to their natural positions at power forward and small forward.

That frontline has been one of the few in the NBA that has had success at limiting Howard, Orlando’s superstar center and MVP candidate. Second in the NBA this season in field goal percentage at 59.3 percent, Howard has made just 43.1 percent against the Hawks in four games. He 27 points against the Hawks in the first meeting in November, but over the course of the final three games he made less than half of his field goals each time. And much has been made of Collins baiting Howard into early foul trouble and holding him to four of 13 shooting three weeks ago.

``Defensively, they are a lot smarter than they were,’’ said Howard, who averaged 19.2 points, 14.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the four games against his hometown team this season. ``They have a lot of guys who have gotten a lot better. Obviously their chemistry is there now because they have been together for a long time. It’s going to be a good series and we’re looking forward to it.’’

A Magic team that has been locked into the fourth seed for a couple of weeks has been looking forward to the start of the playoffs and a rematch against the Hawks for some time. Inconsistent much of the season following the blockbuster trades, suspensions, injuries and illnesses, the Magic started playing some of its best basketball down the stretch with four wins in the last five regular-season games.

Now, the Magic will be trying to make another deep run in the playoffs with what amounts to be an entirely new group. Hedo Turkoglu will be playing in the postseason for the first time since he was on the 2009 Magic team that reached the NBA Finals. Jason Richardson reached the Western Conference Finals last season as a member of the Phoenix Suns. And Gilbert Arenas has been a part of just one playoff series victory in his career. Now, that group joins Howard and Nelson – franchise fixtures the past seven seasons – in this attempt to win together in Orlando for the first time.

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