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: