Quick Recap for those who didn’t watch it….
Larry Drew opted to use the “Big” lineup of Collins/Horford/Smith/Johnson/Hinrich in order to match-up against the Magic lineup of Howard/Bass/Turkoglu/Richardson/Nelson to start the game. Turned out to be a good choice by Coach Drew.
Early in the first quarter, the “big” lineup paid off as Dwight Howard got two early fouls courtesy of Jason Collins. Dwight Howard played less than 4 minutes and only took 1 shot attempt in the first quarter, thanks to Jason Collins drawing a loose ball foul and an offensive foul on Dwight. When Dwight went out, the Hawks (stupidly but predictably) settled for jumpshots in the early going even though there was no defensive prescence in the paint anymore. However, the Hawks did get their offense rolling late in the quarter making 7 of their last 8 field goals of the quarter. Marvin Williams led the attack (off the bench) in the 1st, scoring 8 points, including a three ball that ended the first quarter that gave the Hawks a 2 point lead.
Second quarter, Dwight Howard came back in but Larry Drew left Zaza Pachulia on the court to guard him. It didn’t bode well for the Hawks. Dwight Howard scored 7 quick points, sparking a 9-0 run by the Magic early in the 2nd. Dwight took advantage of Zaza by either drawing a foul or scoring easily over him. The early 9-0 run by the Magic, gave the Magic a 5 point lead, their biggest lead in the quarter (and the entire game). Things changed for the better for the Hawks when Jason Collins was asked to replace Zaza Pachulia. Collins frustrated Dwight Howard, making Dwight take tough shots by being physical with him. Dwight Howard only scored 2 points on Collins in the 8 minutes they were on the floor together. That’s a good stat considering Dwight scored 7 points in the first 3 minutes of the quarter. Anyway, the Hawks offense in the 2nd was led by Josh Smith, who scored 11 points in 4 of 5 shooting in the quarter. 2 of the 4 shots being jumpshots. The Hawks led by 3 at halftime, 43 to 46.
In the third quarter, Dwight Howard’s foul trouble continued. He got his 4th foul before the 8 minute mark of the 3rd. However, when he did, Stan Van Gundy chose to leave him in. I’m guessing he was thinking that the only way the Magic can take the lead was if Dwight was on the floor. However, that didn’t work. The Magic couldn’t take the lead, the Magic would either tie it or get close to it, but everytime they did, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kirk Hinrich, or Al Horford would make a shot. Overall, both teams struggled offensively in the 3rd when Dwight was on the floor. The Hawks were playing in a slow tempo which led to tough shots in the halfcourt while the Magic and Dwight Howard just couldn’t hit water even if they fell out of a boat. However when Stan Van Gundy decided to play it safe and take Dwight Howard out of the game, things changed for the better for the Hawks. Their offense got it going and their defense continued to make the Magic offense struggle. In the last five minutes of the third, with Dwight Howard sitting on the bench, the Hawks got on a 14-6 run to take an 8 point lead heading into the 4th.
In the fourth quarter, it was a battle of who’s offense could look worst. The Hawks offense became stagnant and players started to isolate and take jumpshots. For the Magic, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ryan Anderson took turns on missing jumpshots. Both teams traded miss for miss and make for make. However, with 4 minutes left remaining in the quarter, the Orlando Magic made their push. Howard scored six straight points and Jameer Nelson hit a layup in part of an 8-0 run to tie the game with 1:11 left in the game. However, Joe Johnson answered right back with a floater to give the Hawks a 2 point lead with about 50 seconds left in the game. Next possession, Jameer Nelson took a quick mid range shot that clanked the rim which gave the Hawks possession of the ball with about seconds left in the game. Joe Johnson tried to hit the dagger and clinch the win with another floater, but that one clanked the rim. With 15 seconds left in the 4th, the Magic drew a play up. The play gave Jameer Nelson a running floater in the lane, but unfortunately for him, it missed. Jason Collins grabbed the rebound and was quickly fouled. Collins went to the line and missed the first free throw (badly), but calmly hit the second one to give the Hawks a 3 point lead. The Magic had one shot to tie the game up, but Hedo Turkoglu was forced to shoot a tough turnaround 3 pointer which inevitably missed.
Final Score: Magic: 82 | Hawks: 85
Basically, this Hawks game was won because of one man, Jason Collins. Jason Collins’ statline of 3 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes of play probably doesn’t excite many, but his defensive efforts was the biggest difference in this game. Because he played with physicality with Dwight Howard, Dwight found it hard to score. Also, because of the physicality, Dwight Howard found himself in foul trouble through out the game which led to easy (or easier) shots for the Hawks through out the game and (more) difficult shots for the Magic through out the game.
Give credit to Zaza Pachulia too. He didn’t play well against Dwight in the second quarter, but he handled the task pretty well in the second half.
I love the win and it does give me more confidence in this Hawks team heading into the post-season, but I’m still not convinced this Hawks team can beat the Magic. It took a lot of things to win this game like….
- Jason Collins guarding Howard amazingly well.
- Dwight Howard being in foul trouble all game.
- Josh Smith hitting his jumpshots.
- Joe Johnson shooting the ball pretty well against the Magic defense.
- The Orlando Magic not hitting their perimeter shots.
- JJ Redick & Quentin Richardson not playing.
These factors don’t often occur when the two face each other. Will all of these need to occur in order to only win by 3? If yes, what are the chances of all (or most) of these factors happening 4 games out of 7?
There is still cause for concern, no question about it.
Anyway, let’s not talk about the negatives and the problems after one of the biggest wins of the seasons. How about the good stuff?
- Marvin Williams showed aggressiveness to attack the basket in the few(er) minutes he received with the touches he got. Is it possible that Marvin found the “dog” in him? Also, his jumpshot seems to be back to solid form.
- Joe Johnson didn’t settle for jumpers. With his thumb injury making his jumper more off-line than usual, I was afraid Joe was going to settle for jumpshot after jumpshot, but he didn’t. He attacked the basket and even challenged Dwight a couple of times.
- Josh Smith had some pretty smart moments in the game. He had a few questionable decisions, but for the most part, he played smart. His plan of attack was balanced. He didn’t settle for jumpshots all game long and he didn’t take every open shot the Magic gave him. He attacked the basket in a good amount and he cut to the basket in a good amount. He also made smart(er) passes. Did anyone else see him do outlet passes after rebounds?!
My other Noteable Notes:
- I’ve seen a few people complain about Jason Collins not playing in the 4th quarter. I honestly don’t see what was so wrong about it. Yeah, Howard did get quite a few points when Al Horford was guarding him, but I can see why L.D. decided not to put Collins in there. The Hawks’ offense was horrendous in the the 4th. No one could make shots despite having 5 offensively capable players on the floor. If you took out Jamal and put Collins, you’re taking out a weapon on the offensive end and putting one who isn’t capable of doing anything but get putbacks. I can’t imagine how badly the Hawks offense would have looked if Collins was on the floor. I know Jamal wasn’t providing much offensively late in the game either, but I rather take my chances on him scoring than Collins trying to score. Besides, it’s not like Jamal was getting burned on defense. I don’t know….I think no matter what Larry Drew did in this situation, someone will be complaining. If Collins did get playing time in the 4th, people would blame LD for putting him there when the offense was clearly struggling. Seems like L.D. is in a no win situation sometimes….
- Dominique Wilkins apparently got into an altercation with someone after the game. A guy by the name of Rashan Michel apparently attacked Nique because Nique owed him money from buying suits from the guy a couple of years ago. Nique is reported to be fine, however the attacker is not. The attacker got his faced bruised up by Nique as he went Manny Pacquiao on him, getting three punches on the guy. The attacker was arrested.
- This win gives the Hawks a 3 game winning streak. Can you believe it?! Only 7 regular seasons games left for the Hawks!
- The Hawks also won the season series against the Magic, 3 to 1. Weird. Before the season, at most, I would give the Hawks one win. To win three, that’s pretty impressive.
Next up: The Boston Celtics on ESPN, Friday night. Can the Hawks extend win streak to 4 or will they get embarrassed on national television again?
Final Thought: Did the Orlando Magic become the toughest match-up for the Hawks to the easiest (least difficult) match-up among the top teams in the East in less than one season? Playoffs will be interesting.