Magic Rally Falls Short Again, Hawks Lead Series 3-1

The Orlando Magic had to rally from another 14-point deficit but again, couldn’t finish the job, falling to the Hawks 88-85. They are now just one game away from elimination. Dwight Howard had 29 points and 17 rebounds while Jamal Crawford had 25 points to lead the Hawks.

Both the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks started the game with two turnovers. The Hawks bounced back, getting Joe Johnson going, while the Magic continued to look lost on offense. The Hawks kept hitting ridiculous shots while taking advantage of Orlando’s non-existent offense to build a 14-point lead in the second quarter. The Magic started to play better defense and drew some fouls to the lead back down to six before allowing the Hawks to score the final three points of the quarter. The Hawks shot 20-of-38 (52.6%) and made four of their seven three-point attempts while the Magic shot just 12-of-43 from the field (27.9%) while going 1-of-14 (7.1%) from beyond the arc themselves. The Hawks probably should have had a much bigger lead but 10 turnovers and boneheaded plays by Josh Smith kept the Magic in it.

The Hawks took advantage of more bad shooting early in the third quarter to push their lead to 13 before Gilbert Arenas sparked a Magic run (seriously), cutting a 54-41 lead to 66-61 by the end of the quarter. Orlando shot 9-of-15 (60%) in the quarter and went 6-of-6 from the charity stripe while holding the Hawks to 8-of-18 shooting (44.4%) to actually trim four points off of their lead. In the fourth quarter, the Magic got off to a great start, tying the game on a three-pointer thrown towards the hoop but the Hawks answered with another ridiculous Jamal Crawford made another ridiculous three-pointer and an Al Horford layup on a poor rotation to push the lead back to five. After tying the game at 76, the Hawks scored six straight points to push their lead back to 82-76. The Magic cut the lead to 3, and then forced a turnover. An Arenas layup, two Johnson jumpers and a Howard putback cut the lead to 1 with 12.6 seconds left. Two more Johnson free throws pushed the lead to 3. Orlando ran a play for Turkoglu, who was defended well by Al Horford. He got the ball back, then bricked a last second three.

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

It was the same story. The Hawks hit some big, difficult shots while the Magic couldn’t hit anything. They went 2-of-2 3 from beyond the arc (9%). For the game, Orlando shot 31-of-79 from the field (39.2%) while the Hawks hit 46.7% (35-of-75) of their shots. Orlando again had some decent looks but they just couldn’t capitalize. The defense was there in the second half – the Hawks hit just 15 of their 37 shots in the second half but Orlando still couldn’t buy a bucket.

Head coach Stan Van Gundy said Orlando’s defense “has to be great” because the offense “has been awful.”

Gilbert Arenas was incredible in the second half. He continuously drove to the hoop and got some easy layups. With the Magic taking so many shots from the outside, the Magic had to be happy to finally see someone drive to the hoop. Arenas scored a surprising 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting. He pulled down five rebounds, played pretty good defense and turned the ball over just once. Had the Magic won, his game-tying three-pointer may have been the most talked about play but it was really more of a launch in an attempt to draw a foul. If the Magic could get Arenas to do what he did in game 4, you’d have to like their chances.

As for the last play, Van Gundy said the Magic “didn’t get a shot,” because Turkoglu got the ball stripped and had to throw up a desperation heave. Turkoglu was terrible. Again. Besides blowing the final play, he scored just six points while shooting 2-of-12 from the field and turned the ball over three times. The Magic really went away from the 3/5 pick-and-roll with Turkoglu and Howard. It was understandable they’d want to run the play with Arenas because of all of the success they were having but the Magic can take advantage of Josh Smith’s poor defense on the pick-and-roll.

You can’t mention Turkoglu’s 2-for-12 night without discussing Jameer Nelson’s 3-of-12 night.  Nelson settled for too many bad shots and didn’t get to the rim nearly enough. He did protect the ball better (zero turnovers) and had six assists but he isn’t making enough plays.

Outside of Arenas, the Magic got nothing from their bench. They only other two players who played were Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick. Those two combined for six points on 1-of-12 shooting. They got some very good looks but they clearly have no confidence right now. Van Gundy pointed that out during his pregame presser.

On Orlando’s last shot, they really could have used Jason Richardson, who’s been their go-to late-game three-point shooter since Rashard Lewis was traded. Quentin Richardson did a pretty good job replacing Jason Richardson. He played solid defense and scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting. He also grabbed four rebounds in 28 minutes.

Dwight Howard was Dwight Howard. For those who think he isn’t clutch, please watch the way he defended some of Atlanta’s late game guard/guard pick-and-rolls. On the other end, he was incredible as usual. One play, Howard blocked a shot from behind, stayed in the air and saved it to his teammate. He also scored 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting, went 11-of-16 from the free throw line, pulled down 17 rebounds and blocked two shots.

Next Up: The Magic will try to avoid elimination when they host the Hawks Tuesday night.

Final Thought: I don’t think anyone is going to believe in the law of averages after these four games.

 

(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).

Topics: 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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