Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Orlando Magic 101 Atlanta Hawks 76


Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR%

ORL 89
1.135 47.6

It's just one game and some history still awaits the Hawks if they can win at home on Thursday or even in Orlando on Saturday but the chance to record an, if not outright impressive, at least a feel-good series victory likely passed them by tonight. The Hawks took bad shots, their head coach created foul trouble where none yet existed, that choice put an inferior defensive unit on the floor for long stretches of the first half, the Hawks fell way behind, and they tried to catch up by taking more bad shots. A familiar tale for the 2010-11 Hawks.

The Magic also made jump shots tonight and thus didn't need the extraordinary offensive production Dwight Howard had provided through four games. Which isn't to say that Howard wasn't a factor offensively. True, Orlando took control of the game with Howard on the bench after he committed two early fouls and Larry Drew kept Kirk Hinrich on the bench after committing two fouls in the first half as the Hawks fell irreparably behind, saving his best defensive guard for meaningful minutes that rapidly ceased to exist but the Magic were able to neutralize, for the most part, at least within the confines of this uncompetitive game, Hinrich's defense when he was on the court by repeatedly making him partner with the immobile Jason Collins to defend the pick-and-roll.

By running their 1/5 pick-and-roll to the middle of the floor when Collins was in the game, Orlando largely negated Atlanta's heretofore effective pick-and-roll defensive strategy. By attacking the lane, Orlando forced help to come a long way from the corner which both exacerbated Collins' limited mobility and forced the Hawks to rotate to, rather than sit on, shooters on the three-point line.

Yes, a good portion of the margin of victory is due to Orlando shooting well rather than horribly. And, yes, some of the rest of that margin can be attributed to Atlanta's hideous offensive display. But Orlando made a tactical adjustment. One that worked. As one who feared, before the series began, that the Hawks had but one way* to beat the Magic, the necessity of Larry Drew making a counter-adjustment proves fertile soil, at least in the immediate aftermath of this game, in which to sow the seeds of doubt.

*The Hawks beat the Magic in Game 1 by outscoring them but the last four games make that appear even more of a one-off than it seemed at the time.

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