The Orlando Magic fell behind by double digits again and another late rally came up just short as the Magic lost the Hawks 84-81 and dropped the series four games-to-two. Dwight Howard had 25 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks to lead the Magic while Joe Johnson had 23 points for the Hawks.
The Orlando Magic got off to a much better start from the field, going 8-of-17 (47.1%) from the field in the first quarter but the Hawks dominated the boards (14-to-5), got off 25 attempts (made eight) and hit all six of the free throws while the Magic went just 1-of-2 from the free throw line, which allowed the Hawks to take a 23-18 lead into the second quarter. The second quarter got off to a terrible start as the Hawks pushed their five point lead to 10 at 34-24. Trailing 40-31 with 1:31 to go, things looked like they were going to get ugly. Brandon Bass threw a bad pass, but Josh Smith threw it right back to Hedo Turkoglu, who sank a three-pointer. After two Turkoglu free throws, Joe Johnson pushed the lead back to six at 42-36. Brandon Bass then blocked Jamal Crawford’s shot at the buzzer to keep the lead at six. The Hawks grabbed 26 rebounds to Orlando’s 13. The Magic shot 43.8% (14-of-32) in the first half while the Hawks shot 34.8% (16-of-46) in the half.
Orlando cut the lead to 50-49 at the 4:24 mark, but a flagrant foul on Hedo Turkoglu followed by a three-pointer pushed the lead back to five. The Hawks got the lead back to nine before J.J. Redick’s layup cut it to seven at the end of the quarter. Marvin Williams started the final quarter off with a three-pointer, giving the Hawks a 10-point lead. A three on the next possession pushed the lead to 11 at 68-57. The Magic staged another fourth quarter comeback, cutting the lead to one with 34 seconds left. After two Jamal Crawford free throws, Orlando got a wide open look from J.J. Redick but he couldn’t knock it down. The Magic had one more shot by Jason Richardson but he had his shot blocked.
After the jump, you can read more thoughts, observations, and quotes after the jump.
You can’t play behind from the entire series. The Magic proved that. They fell behind by double digits in every game but one and couldn’t quite execute down the stretch. The Magic fought hard in every single game (except game 5) and had to fight and claw their way back. You have to appreciate their effort – they certainly left it all on the court.
It all came down to one thing – the Magic just couldn’t shoot. Game 5 wound up being the outlier in the series – in every other game they were absolutely atrocious from beyond the arc and that includes Thursday night’s 5–of-19 (26.3%) performance.
Hedo Turkoglu hit a couple of big shots and went 3-of-6 from beyond the arc but he continued to make inexplicably bad decisions. He was downright awful in this series. Really, there wasn’t anywhere else for head coach Stan Van Gundy to go to. He had to ride Turkoglu and hope for him to look more like the Turk of old. Unfortunately for Van Gundy and the Magic, they had nowhere else to turn.
Dwight Howard was very good, again. His ability to get great position inside and draw fouls kept the Magic in the game when the Hawks threatened to put the game out of reach. He was incredible during the entire series and showed why he was a legitimate MVP candidate. He had 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting and went 9-of-12 from the free throw line.
Outside of a few nice drives to the basket to keep the Magic within striking distance late in the game by Jameer Nelson, not other Magic player did anything to write home about. Nelson was 5-of-10 from the field and Brandon Bass was 3-of-6. No other Magic player was over 50.0% from the field.
They did wind up shooting 43.3% from the field while holding the Hawks to 39.2% shooting, but the Hawks got up 12 more shots and made three more three-pointers.
Rebounds were the early problem for the Magic and is the main reason the Hawks got up to an early lead (they had an early 26-13 rebounding advantage). They wound up closing the number to just seven (38-31) but it wasn’t enough.
Orlando’s defense was solid except for a small stretch during the second half where they let the Hawks get a few open threes and some easier floaters in the lane. Overall, Orlando’s defense did their job and the offense just couldn’t match the defense.
Final Thought: It was a rough season and a difficult way to end things. With the Magic in cap hell, it’s difficult to say things are looking up, but Dwight Howard is still under contract. As long as that’s the case, the Magic can compete.
(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