Dwight Howard has no problems with the officials on Tuesday.
Here’s all you need to know: When Dwight went to the bench with his third foul late in the third quarter Tuesday night, he actually agreed with the ref’s call and happily took a seat on the bench for the rest of the game. Of course, the Magic led by 30 and Dwight had 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks at the time.
“I played about the same amount of minutes as I played in the Charlotte series,” Dwight said with a smile splashed across his face.
Mike Bianchi has that story here.
Howard had a big game and earned his first double-double of the postseason.
Howard, who averaged just 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds against the Bobcats, scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting/dunking, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots.
“I didn’t allow anything to throw me off my game,” Howard said.
The biggest development? Howard, who routinely picked up two quick fouls in every game of the first round, was whistled for only one at halftime against the Hawks. He played with poise, played smart and seldom was in the refs’ ears.
“That was the most important thing for Dwight — be patient, don’t try to prove the world wrong or whatever,” Vince Carter said.
Brian Schmitz has that story here.
Orlando’s offense was nearly flawless for the first three quarters.
But the Magic, for the first 36 minutes or so of this game, ran their offense to perfection. Everything was inside-out, via a Howard post-up or a dribble-drive. After that, a shot went up or the ball went back out, then moved side-to-side until an open look presented itself.
Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post has that story here.
The Magic used the pick-and-roll to exploit some mismatches.
Nelson scored 19 points, much of it running the pick and roll with Howard throughout the game as Atlanta’s defenders looked helpless at times while switching on every screen (as the team normally does). Orlando took advantage of this strategy and found mismatches and kept the ball moving.
Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily has that story here.
Nelson’s dominance of Mike Bibby was a big reason for the rout.
“I just wanted to attack, and keep attacking,” Nelson said after the Magic buried the Hawks, 114-71, in a game that was even more lopsided than the score. “We’re in this for the long haul, so you have to keep attacking.”
Nelson had 19 points — hit 5 of 8 shots — and five rebounds in his 25 minutes, orchestrating the Magic offense to perfection. After missing the Magic’s playoff run to the Finals last season, he is hungrier now than he ever has been in his career.
Bibby, conversely, made only one of his five shots. He had two points and three assists in his 20 minutes, hardly factoring in the blowout and unable to get his team on track.
“They embarrassed us, but I don’t think we broke down. We just didn’t make shots,” said Bibby, sounding unaware of how badly his offense looked. “It’s one game, and you have to win four. This one is already behind us.”
Tim Povtak has that story here.
Despite the Nelson’s performance and Orlando’s margin of victory, Nelson doesn’t think anything comes easy.
In short, the guy Howard famously labeled a “crib midget” as a term of endearment played far bigger than his stocky frame. Nelson finished with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He also recorded five assists.
“It wasn’t easy at all,” Nelson said. “Don’t be confused by the score. They’re a tough team and we know they’re going to bring it harder and probably play better next game.”
The point guard showed no ill-effects of the seafood-induced food poisoning that forced him to miss practice Sunday.
Josh Robbins has that story here.
The Hawks’ often settled for contested jumpers.
The Hawks, for the most part, settled for contested jumpers, operated out of isolations sets, and exacerbated the issue with little to no ball movement. For the majority of the evening, Atlanta was showing a nationally-televised audience how not to execute offensively. In the rare instances that the Hawks decided to attack the basket, Howard was there to meet them at the rim and either alter or block their shots. From an execution standpoint, and certainly this will please head coach Stan Van Gundy more than anything else, the Magic did everything that they normally set out to accomplish defensively. Because of Orlando, Atlanta took long two-point shots, stayed away from the paint, and avoided trips to the free-throw line.
Eddy Rivera of Magic Basketball has that story here.
The Magic had several highlight-reel plays in the game.
It started with a wicked Dwight Howard rejection in which Superman grasped a Josh Smith shot and it ended with a spectacular Mickael Pietrus alley-oop slam dunk off a pass from Jason Williams.
The exuberant crowd at Amway Arena expressed their satisfaction for what they just watched and proceeded to give the Magic a standing ovation during a subsequent Hawks timeout.
Dan Savage and Josh Cohen go ‘Around the Association’ here.
The Hawks were defeated by 43 points and it seemed worse.
The Hawks tried really hard those first 14 minutes. Then the home team got going, and the visitors decided trying to play sound basketball really wasn’t worth the effort. So they ceased and desisted.
Joe Johnson kept losing the ball. (He had four turnovers against five points the first half.) Jamal Crawford looked scared. (His first half: Two points, two points.) And Mike Woodson’s grand scheme to control Dwight Howard worked for a little while, but the sheer weirdness of it — deploying the forgotten Jason Collins before the NBA’s sixth man of the year and the ancient Joe Smith in the first quarter — undid the team it was supposed to bolster.
The Hawks were so consumed by trying to bump and bedevil Howard they stopped running any semblance of an offense. (Collins made a basket and seemed shocked.) They scored 23 points in the first quarter; they managed 21 in the next two. They tried to go Iso-Joe and that didn’t work, so everyone decided to hoist jumpers. And the lead grew — it would peak at 112-66 — and the humiliation deepened, and the East’s No. 3 seed became something a No. 3 seed should never be: pitiable.
Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has that story here.
The Magic beat the Hawks so bad that it sent Cleveland a message.
Game two is not going to be exactly like this. The Hawks cannot play this bad again. But in their regular season matchups less severe versions of this same scenario played out. The Magic have a starting five that can best the Hawks starting five, and the Magic bench blows Atlanta out of the water. The Magic have matchup advantages they can easily exploit, while Howard takes away the easy baskets the Hawks try to get off their mismatches.
The Magic have made a statement. The Hawks were simply the vehicle. The Cavaliers were the intended recipients.
Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk has that story here.
Kris Willis of Soaring Down South compares the Magic to a surgeon.
Like a world renown surgeon, the Orlando Magic took their scalpel and proceeded to carve up the Hawks outscoring them 28-10 in the second quarter to take a twenty point lead into the half. When one thing went bad it all went for the Hawks. The Hawks began to make mistakes and turn the ball over and the snowball began. The Magic were able to establish Dwight Howard mostly off of penetration by guards who in turned dished to Howard after the help defender had rotated to them. The three pointers started to rain down and the Hawks abandoned ball movement and proceeded into “hero” basketball or where one player tries to shoot the team back into it. Possession after possession with either zero or one passes leading to a unsuccessful jump shot. Absolutely nothing going to the basket and no offensive rebounds to give themselves more opportunities.
You can read that story here.
Peachtree Hoops is very upset with Hawks Coach Mike Woodson.
I do not want to blame all 43 or even 20 of those points on Woody, but he came into this game scared, and I have never seen an underdog team on the road win a game where the coach’s strategy was based in fear. Bringing Jason Collins off the bench to “take up fouls” is not a move that wins game, it is a move of survival, and the Hawks are not winning a game of survival. The day Mike Woodson realized that four on five is not an acceptable strategy at the end of quarter, in the playoffs, or on the rec gym floor is the day I endorse him as the future coach.
You can find that story here.
Hoopinion also has trouble understanding some of Woodson’s logic.
Sort of. Woodson was saving Horford to play against Marcin Gortat when Gortat replaced Howard on the court and Horford, presumably, couldn’t do that if he picked up a second foul. Somewhat predictably, Stan Van Gundy countered this strategic innovation by leaving his best player in the game against, first, Atlanta’s third-string center*, then the backup center. Woodson eventually realized that Howard wasn’t headed to the bench anytime soon and put Horford back in with 8:55 left in the second quarter. That’s 9 minutes and 41 seconds of the first 15 minutes and 5 seconds of the game that Al Horford spent on the bench as his coach, in an effort to create a future mis-match that didn’t materialize until Orlando had a 16-point lead, gifted his opponent’s best player a mis-match in the present. It was surely the nadir of The Horford Treatment and, perhaps, a mis-calculation so severe as to kill off the misguided attempt at maintaining control for good.
You can find that story here.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).