Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks: Game Preview

Trae Young and Cole Anthony
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- Over the last two games, the Orlando Magic have played stretches of impressive basketball. However, slow starts to the second half in back-to-back contests have proved costly and resulted in losses to the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets.

Now, the Magic (18-39) will look to put together a complete performance when they visit the red-hot Atlanta Hawks (31-26), who’ve won eight of their last 10 games, on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

“We played three out of four good quarters (on Sunday),” Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford explained. “The third quarter for the second game in a row, we just lost our juice that first three-and-a-half, four minutes. … We have to find a way to put forty-eight minutes together, obviously.”

The Magic spent much of their practice time on Monday focusing offensively on their pace and emphasizing the importance of moving the basketball, setting better screens, and having quicker rolls to the hoop.

“To me, how quickly you get into offense and how much pressure you put on the defense with every pass is the whole key to the NBA, especially with a team like ours right now where we don’t have a lot of breakdown guys,” Clifford said. “So, how much we move the defense, how quickly the ball moves from side-to-side, I believe, is critical.”

As part of accomplishing those tasks, the Magic will continue to put more on the plate of point guard Cole Anthony. The rookie floor general is averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists over the last two games, his first starts since a rib injury sidelined him for 25 straight matchups. Although he’s played in seven total contests since his return, he’s just starting to regain his feel for the game and get back to the level of on-court conditioning he had prior to the injury.

“I feel great,” Anthony said. “I just have to keep getting better. I took some steps (against the Raptors) and even with the lackluster game (against the Rockets), I definitely still took some steps. I just have to continue to get better every single game and just try to do what I can to help this team win.”

Numerous teammates have stated that Anthony’s competitive fire and intensity are contagious. Those traits were on full display over the final 28.2 seconds against the Rockets as the University of North Carolina alum made a pair of buckets during that span to twice cut Orlando’s deficit down to two and make it a one-possession game.

“I just see it in him,” Clifford explained. “He has the right attitude; he has the right approach.”

KEY STAT: The Magic have outscored their opponents 175-157 in quarters one, two and four, the last two games. However, the opposition has trounced Orlando, 70-37, in the third quarter, and as a result, the Magic have suffered two straight defeats.

“We’ve played great basketball, good basketball for three of the four quarters, but the object of every game is to come out and play forty-eight minutes,” Magic swingman Dwayne Bacon said. “And we didn’t do that in the third quarter.”

INJURY UPDATE: For Orlando, Michael Carter-Williams (sprained left ankle), James Ennis III (sore right calf), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain), and Terrence Ross (back spasms) are out.

For Atlanta, Kris Dunn (right ankle surgery), Danilo Gallinari (right foot soreness), De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness), Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness), and Tony Snell (sprained right ankle) are out.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “For me, it’s just all about growing and getting better. I’m so blessed to be in this position. Thanks to the Orlando Magic organization for having me around. So, for this opportunity (that) I have in front of me, (I’m trying to) stay in the moment, constantly learn and grow. That’s what I’m here to do.” – Devin Cannady on signing his two-way contract with the Magic.

RIVALS REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re joined by longtime NBA analyst Andre Aldridge, who spent nine seasons as the Hawks sideline reporter and currently hosts the A Toast To The A-Town podcast. He was generous enough to take the time and provide his insight on the Hawks.

Savage: “Clint Capela has been playing some tremendous basketball for the Hawks during their eight-and-two stretch. What have you seen from him recently?”

Aldridge: “One of the biggest things Hawks fans are talking about right now is Clint Capela. He’s had ten consecutive double-doubles. It doesn’t sound earth shattering, headline worthy, or whatever, but until Sunday’s game against the Pacers, he was getting them in unbelievable fashion. As part of that, he had shot at least sixty percent in each one of the double-doubles. To string nine together at that shooting percentage was the fifth-best number in the history of the NBA – when you put in those parameters – joining players like Wilt Chamberlain and Rudy Gobert. Clint ended up shooting fifty-nine percent on Sunday against the Pacers, hitting ten-of-seventeen from the floor. However, he had twenty-five points and twenty-four rebounds. He only missed out on that because of a stretch in the fourth quarter where he was battling for offensive rebounds and missed a shot and two straight putbacks with three players hanging around him on a play that he eventually converted. He’s just battling. I don’t think I’m a homer for saying this, but I would definitely give him consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. There’s no way the Hawks are sitting tied for fourth with a possibility of reaching the postseason for the first time after a three-year absence without his continued excellence and improvement. It’s just been phenomenal to watch.”

Savage: “The last time we spoke, Nate McMillan had just taken over as head coach for Lloyd Pierce. How have you seen his imprint continued to be placed on the team?”

Aldridge: “He is such a serious, no-nonsense guy. Sometimes that’s misconstrued. Does that mean he tells guys to run through a wall? This is two-thousand-and-twenty-one. That doesn’t happen anymore. And if it happens, somebody is not going to be a coach anymore. I just mean his attention to what he believes in is so serious that as a coach, who has led multiple teams before, guys know his resume when he comes in. You have to realize, he leaves Seattle (as a player) and it’s not just that he was in a backcourt with Gary Payton. He leaves Seattle known as Mr. Sonic. That’s from that hard work and focus then as a player. There’s no B.S. with him. Coach Pierce was on his first NBA job. So, it’s almost unfair to compare a guy that’s led multiple teams to what L.P. was doing. One of the things you notice is there are times when Trae (Young) needs to sit down because the second unit is doing a better job, or he just needs to sit down for a while. I think that has happened under Nate more so whether it’s crunch time or whatever time it is than it did under coach Pierce. And the irony is that until John Collins’ injury, John and Trae were actually playing more minutes – although by just a couple – for coach Mac than they had been for coach L.P.”

Savage: “For the Hawks to make a postseason run, what needs to go their way and what do they need to continue to do that they’re doing well right now?”

Aldridge: “We’ve learned that some of our additions are as good as we thought they were going to be, health aside. Bogdan Bogdanovic, for the month of April, has really looked like a steal for the money we paid him, and we paid him a lot of money. (laughter) Milwaukee would love to have him there, but that’s on Milwaukee that he’s not a member of the Bucks. So, Bogdanovic continuing to play like he does. What we’ve been able to get from Gallinari, who’s been injured the past few games. If they’re on the floor and our core guys continue to do what they’ve been doing, I see a return to postseason and hopefully finishing sixth or higher to avoid that play-in madness.”

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