Monday, May 03, 2010

Discussing the Series With Eddy Rivera of Magic Basketball

I answered some questions about the Atlanta Hawks in general and the series in particular for Eddy Rivera at the newest addition to The TrueHoop Network: Magic Basketball.

Eddy was kind of enough to do the same for me, here.

LaGree: Some Hawks fans, in their frustration with long-term problems going unaddressed, look enviously at the Magic as an organization that's implementing a sensible and successful plan from top to bottom. I suspect, though, that are some things about the Magic that frustrate and irritate their fans. Am I right about that? If so, what are these irritants?

Rivera: Great question.

[ed. -- Great opening to an answer.]

Dwight Howard's run-ins with the officials has always seemed to irritate the fans. That's probably been the main irritant. Many people wish Howard gets more respect from the referees but at the same time, they want to him to stop complaining so much and by extension, avoid getting technical fouls as a result of his excessive verbal theatrics. The two things go hand-in-hand, most likely. Maybe if Howard didn't gripe so much with the refs, maybe more calls would go his way. Who knows. Nevertheless, it's an interesting subplot that's been developing for the past couple of years.

LaGree: Charlotte got to the line a lot in the first-round series. Typically, that's hard to do against the Magic. How did Charlotte do it and is it in any way plausible for the 23rd-ranked team in FT Rate to replicate their success?

Rivera: Well, the Charlotte Bobcats got to the free-throw line a lot because they had no choice. There was no way the Bobcats were going to out-shoot the Magic because that's not their game, and head coach Larry Brown admitted it as much, so the next best thing for them to do was to attack the basket. And Charlotte did. Plenty of times. The Bobcats were third in the NBA during the regular season in FT Rate (.260) so the fact that they were able to continue that trend in the playoffs (.259) should have came to no surprise. That was simply a part of Charlotte's DNA offensively.

Can the Atlanta Hawks replicate their success? Sure, they can. Will they? I don't know. Like anything in life, it's tough to break out of habits so the Hawks would have to openly change how they operate on offense. If there's one thing Atlanta has gotten into a trap of, it's settling for jumpshots because they are wary of Dwight Howard's presence in the lane. It's understandable, but if the Hawks want any chance of winning the series, they have to copy part of the Bobcats' blueprint. It's a must. Atlanta needs to exhibit the same fearlessness Charlotte displayed, by attacking the basket consistently.

LaGree: Orlando didn't shoot the three especially often or well against the Hawks in the four regular season meetings. Is it possible the Hawks, despite their struggles against the Magic, haven't felt the full impact of Orlando's offense?

Rivera: I think the Hawks have felt the full impact of the Magic's offense this year, just not on a consistent basis. On January 9, Orlando went 12-of-28 from three-point range (42.9%) and scored 113 points. That was without Vince Carter or with a healthy Jameer Nelson, too. In their other meetings, yeah, the Magic shot below their average beyond the arc. It'll be interesting to see if that trend continues, actually.

LaGree: Which matchups (if any) cause concern for the Magic?

Rivera: Josh Smith could pose a problem for Rashard Lewis -- who could forget his game-winning dunk in late March? -- when he's on offense, especially if he's able to get out in transition and use his supreme athleticism to his advantage. That's about it, though. Nelson, although undersized, has the strength to deal with Bibby. Orlando will have multiple bodies to send at Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, and Marvin Williams. And then there's Howard, who not only will defend Al Horford but also anchor the Magic defense.

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