By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
Game 1 was a blowout -- the Orlando Magic defeated the Atlanta Hawks by 43 points. The Hawks appeared rested and energetic in the first quarter but a 17-0 run in the second quarter was all the Magic needed to defeat the Hawks.
It may have been the Hawks' 48-hour turnaround from Game 7 of their series versus the Bucks. It may have been the lack or rest and preparation. I personally think it is much simpler than that. The Magic are the much better team. The Magic won the season series 3-1. They beat the Hawks in those three games by a margin of 22.3 ppg.
Orlando is a well-rounded, talented and well-coached team. The Magic have height, length, low-post scoring, one-on-one scoring and perimeter shooting. In addition they are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA with Dwight Howard anchoring them in the paint. The Hawks on the other hand are built to win regular season games with their talented and athletic team, but I am not sure they are mentally tough enough to win playoff series against the elite teams in the NBA.
The Hawks show too many signs of offensive and defensive immaturity. This is one of the worst teams for the Hawks to face. The Magic are not going to beat themselves. They have the personnel to defend Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith. Howard will not let the Hawks get easy baskets at the rim. Orlando will torture Atlanta with pick and rolls. Jameer Nelson will read the pick and rolls and either score, find Howard on the roll or kick the ball out to 3-point shooters.
Game 2 Adjustments
The Hawks need a bounce-back game in the worst way. They do not need to necessarily beat the Magic in Game 2 but they definitely need a much better effort after a day’s rest in Orlando. They need to head back to Atlanta with the belief that they can win on their home court and return to Orlando tied 2-2.
The Hawks need to find a way to defend the Magic. Somehow, someway they need to deal with Howard in the post and limit points in the paint. They need to slow down the pick and rolls of Nelson and get him under control. And they need a much better effort on the glass. They allowed the Magic to shoot 52 percent from the field in Game 1. They need to put more pressure on the Magic, force more steals, block more shots, and contest more shots. If they can do this it would allow them to play in the open court. They are a much better team in transition than in the half court. They must create more possessions off fastbreak basketball.
When the Hawks do get into their halfcourt offense they must display a much better offensive effort. Howard was locked in defensively Monday night and Atlanta got nothing easy at the rim. They were forced to make jump shots all game. The Hawks got themselves in trouble in the second quarter when they shot 4-for-17 (23 percent) from the field and had seven turnovers. They played a lot of one-on-one basketball, and had very little ball or player movement. There were too many times when there were was one pass or no passes and a shot went up. You cannot beat a good defensive team like the Magic by keeping the ball on the strong side and not passing the ball. You must move the ball from side to side, make the Magic come out of help position and attempt to beat them off the dribble on closeouts. With the Defensive Player of the Year protecting the paint, the Hawks are delusional to think they can win doing anything less than that.
A series is not determined in one game. The Hawks need to rest, prepare for Game 2 and find a blueprint to beat the Magic. They need to come out in Game 2 and set a tone for the rest of the series. They may not win Game 2 but if they can experiment and find things that work then maybe they can get themselves back in this series at home.
Prediction: Magic win Game 2