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Magic vs Hawks Game 2 – Positives, Negatives and Randomtives

April 19, 2011

The Magic secured Game 2 of their first round series with the Hawks and managed to at least salvage some hope of home court advantage.  Orlando defeated Atlanta 88-82 to tie the series at one win a piece.  I take a look at the positives, negatives, randomtives and keys to Game 3 below.

Positives

–          Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard. DWIGHT HOWARD. Do I sound like a broken record yet? Looking beyond the obvious great box score numbers (33 and 19), the effort expended by Dwight Howard tonight was truly phenomenal. He only officially recorded 1 blocked shot but easily altered at least 5 others; including a Jamal Crawford layup attempt that went over the backboard. Dwight played a full 48 minutes and the Magic needed just about every minute of it. And before you criticize Stan for running Dwight into the ground, they tried to get him a few minutes off here and their but Dwight didn’t want to leave the floor.  His ironman-esque mentality tonight set the tone for the entire team and was easily the number one reason that Orlando got the W.

–          Energy and effort from the entire team. We saw Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick actually diving on the floor. How often do you recall seeing Magic players going that all out for a loose ball? That entire team effort was continuously praised by Stan Van Gundy post-game as it should be.  I’d also like to call out Ryan Anderson’s effort and defense in the 3rd quarter which helped the Magic push the lead towards double digits. Stan summed up this point the best when he called the effort tonight, “above and beyond.”

–          Rebounding.  The Magic out rebounded the Hawks in every quarter except for the 4th (14-7, 18-8, 12-11 and then 8-13).  The Magic coaching staff constantly harps that the Magic must rebound to win games and they did big time today, preventing easy put backs from the Hawks and giving themselves second chance opportunities. Final rebounding stats: 52-39 total, 20-13 offensive.

–          Free throws. The Magic made them! More importantly they got to the line as a team, shooting 29-36 overall. Dwight was an impressive 15-19. Easy points > tough points. It’s science.

–          Joe Johnson limited.  I listed “Keeping Joe Johnson off the free throw line” as a key to game 2. Well the Magic certainly did so as Iso-Joe went 0-2 from the line and finished with only 14 points on 6-15 shooting.

Negatives

–          Production from anyone not named Dwight.  At first glance it appears that the scoring was more balanced.  This is true if by “balanced” you mean that “nobody else scored”.  The offense is really struggling right now and it’s all coming down to missed shots.  Stan seems lost as to how to get his guys to knock down open shots, even acknowledging that maybe when he draws up plays in the huddle that he should draw the ball going through the basket. Not a bad idea!  If you’re a magic player not named Dwight, then you collectively shot 18-66 for 27.3%.

–          Converting on fast breaks. Orlando did a great job of forcing turnovers and getting out and running when they got the chance. Unfortunately they were only 4-14 on those fast breaks and got 14 points. Obviously some of those points came on free throws, but like I said above… easy points need to be converted.

–          Shots. I hate to harp on this, but it’s really what it boils down to.  The Magic are getting open shots and they just aren’t converting on them.  On top of that, all too often passes are coming a half second too late which leads to guys passing up rhythm jumpers and forcing bad passes.

Randomtives

–          Dwight tied a team playoff record for points in a quarter with the 20 he scored in the 2nd.

–          The Magic are now 10-14 all-time in Game #2’s during their playoff history (9-5 at home, 1-9 on the road).

–          Gilbert Arenas did not play in the second half and instead when it was time to sub for Jameer, Stan went with Redick and Hedo as his ball handlers.  When asked after the game Stan said that the decision had nothing to do with Gil and had everything to do with matchups.  He further added that it came down to playing either J.J. or Gil and that he made the decision to go with Redick. You can expect to see much of the same for the remainder of the series but if the Magic advance to play Chicago, you could see Hibachi getting more minutes.

–          Dating back to the 2008 playoffs, in each case when the Magic win Game 2 of a series, Orlando has gone on to win that particular series.

5 Keys to Game 3

–          Orlando must come out from the tip and play with the same energy and effort that they did tonight and must maintain it for a full 48 minutes.  The Hawks are a mentally weak team and if the Magic can set the tone early, they can break the “will” of Atlanta

–          Deliver crisp, timely passes that allow the shooters of Orlando to shoot in rhythm.

–          Keep feeding the beast. Let Dwight Howard eat!

–          Continue to limit the effectiveness of Joe Johnson and force Atlanta to continue to be a jump shooting team.

–          Continue to prevent the Hawks from getting easy points by rebounding effectively and limiting fast break opportunities.

After two more days of rest, Game 3 will be Friday night at 8:00 in the ATL. In case you didn’t notice, the NBA is trying to make the playoffs last until the baseball playoffs start.

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