Magic Use Great Defensive Effort to Defeat Hawks

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The Orlando Magic got a much better defensive effort and another monster night from Dwight Howard to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 88-82 and even their first round series at one. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 33 points and 19 rebounds while Jamal Crawford had 25 points for the Hawks.

The Orlando Magic started the opening quarter with good energy and played solid defense but were absolutely atrocious on offense. They scored just 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting, missed all five three-pointers and turned the ball over six times (Dwight Howard had four himself). The Hawks again made some tough shots, including a couple of thirty foot three-pointers that beat the shot clock (Joe Johnson) and the first quarter buzzer (Jamal Crawford). The Magic got off to a terrible start in the second quarter, allowing the Hawks to open a 10-point lead at the 9:00 mark. Ignited by a J.J. Redick dive and steal, the Magic went on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 34. The Hawks answered with a 5-0 run of their own. The Magic answered, ending the quarter with a 14-3 run to take a six-point lead into the half.

Neither team could get anything going in the third quarter. The Hawks shot just 4-of-16 in the quarter while the Magic shot even worse, going 4-of-17 from the field in the quarter. After the Magic let the Hawks get the lead down to two with 3:14 remaining, they went on a 10-1 run to end the quarter and take an 11-point lead in the final period. The Magic made a couple of mistakes early in the fourth quarter, including fouling Jamal Crawford while shooting a three. They built a 78-66 lead but let the Hawks go on a 10-0 before a Jameer Nelson hustle play leading to a Turkoglu bucket and a Jason Richardson three put the Hawks away for good.

After the jump, you can read quotes, thoughts and observations from the game.

After game 1, the story was the lack of balance from the Magic. Honestly, the offense was a little more balanced in game 2 but the production was even worse. Jameer Nelson didn’t have the game he had in game 1 and Howard was once again their only real consistent threat.

Defense was where this game was one. Orlando forced the Hawks into more mistakes and did a much better job of getting out in transition. From the tip, you could tell Orlando was going to give a better effort in game 2.

“This one to me came down to one thing for us,” Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “We played extremely hard.”

The Hawks again took several outside jumpers and got 11 points on improbable shots, including two deep threes by Joe Johnson to beat the shot clock, a shot by Josh Smith that bounced around and into the hoop and a first quarter buzzer beater by Jamal Crawford. Crawford stayed hot, but Orlando did a better job of closing out on Atlanta’s shooters and they didn’t shoot nearly as well on outside jumpers as they did Saturday.

For the Magic to shoot 34.6% from the field and win shows you how well they played on defense.

Orlando also dominated the glass, grabbing 52 rebounds to Atlanta’s 39, with 20 0f those coming on the offensive glass.

“I don’t see us giving ourselves much of a chance to win a game giving up that many offensive rebounds,” Hawks head coach Larry Drew explained.

Most of the Magic players talked about the energy they brought and the hustle plays that really saved the game for them. With the Magic trailing by nine in the second quarter, J.J. Redick poked the ball away from Kirk Hinrich, dove on the ground after it, recovered and got the ball to Jameer Nelson for an easy layup. The Magic finished the first half on a 26-10 run and turned their one-time 10-point deficit into a 10-point lead. At the end of the game with the Magic hanging on to a two-point lead after a 10-0 Hawks run, Nelson dove to the ground for a loose ball, recovered and the ball got out to Hedo Turkoglu, who put an end to Orlando’s drought.

Speaking of Turkoglu, he hit a couple of big shots but overall, he had an abysmal shooting night. He went just 4-of-16 of the field and had some near unexplainable plays. I call them near unexplainable because they’d only be unexplainable if someone other than Turkoglu made them. A good example is when he bumbled a beautiful pass from Nelson under the basket and rather than try to recover or get it to a teammate, he simply took a fadeaway jumper that rimmed out.

It’s not all on Turkoglu; almost everyone was terrible from the field. In fact, the Magic, outside of Howard, shot just 18-of-66 (27.2%) from the field. Not a single player other than Howard shot over 50% from the field.

Van Gundy still had confidence in Turkoglu and had him backup Nelson at point guard in the second half. He said the decision was made so Redick could guard the point guard. Van Gundy went on to say the decision wasn’t to play Turkoglu over Arenas, it was to play Redick instead of Arenas.

What this all means is that Howard was incredible, again. He had four first quarter turnovers and just two points in the first quarter, but followed that up with a 20-point second quarter and wound up with just three more turnovers. He score 33 points on just 12 shot attempts and made 15 of his 19 free throws. He also grabbed 19 rebounds.

“He was phenomenal tonight,” Van Gundy explained. “Just the energy itself that he put into the game, I’m not even talking about the numbers. I mean 33 and 19 is great, you can fault his seven turnovers, but what he put into that game for 48 minutes at a game of that intensity, that’s incredible. I’m sure he’s glad we have two days in between right here.”

Van Gundy emphasized 48 minutes because Howard played the entire game. Van Gundy asked Howard if he wanted to come out on several occasions but his answer was always no. Howard got treatment after the game but he seemed fine afterwards outside of being tired.

Next Up: The Magic will take on the Hawks in game 3 Friday.

Final Thought: The Magic gave a great effort and they’re going to start hitting shots at some point.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080’s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).

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Tags: Al Horford Atlanta Hawks Brandon Bass Chris Duhon Dwight Howard Earl Clark Gilbert Arenas Hedo Turkoglu J.j. Redick Jameer Nelson Jason Richardson Joe Johnson Josh Smith Kirk Hinrich Larry Drew Marvin Williams Orlando Magic Quentin Richardson Ryan Anderson Stan Van Gundy

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