UPDATED - Tonight's Game: Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic

Atlanta Hawks main logo
vs.
Orlando Magic main logo
37-43
50-30
Philips Arena
7:00 PM
Sun Sports, NBA TV
Probable starters:
Mike Bibby PG Jameer Nelson
Joe Johnson SG Maurice Evans
Josh Smith SF Hedo Turkoglu
Marvin Williams PF Rashard Lewis
Al Horford C Dwight Howard
Season series:
10 Dec 2007: Hawks 98, Magic 87
10 Mar 2008: Magic 123, Hawks 112
22 Mar 2008: Hawks 98, Magic 90

The Magic get a chance to even the score against the Hawks tonight when they meet at the Philips Arena. Atlanta the only team in the East this season that has a winning record against the Magic; the thirteen other teams in the conference have either lost or tied the season-series. In light of that, I decided to take a look at the four factors to see why the Hawks seem to have our number.

Orlando Magic Four Factors, 2007-2008 NBA Season

Pace O Rtg eFG% TO Rate OReb Rt FT Rt
Season Total 92 113.3 .535 15.6 23.2 25.9
vs. Hawks 95 105.6 .527 13.7 20.6 19.1
Diff +3 -7.7 -.008 -1.9 -2.6 -6.8

Puzzling. Versus Atlanta, we shoot about the same and commit fewer turnovers, so what accounts for the huge drop in offensive efficiency as compared to our regular-season numbers? Poor free-throw shooting. We are an atrocious 46-of-76 from the stripe against the Hawks this year, or 60.5%. If we shot free throws at our regular-season clip, 72.2%, we would have scored 8 more points against the Hawks.

Through the three games in this series, the Hawks are +8. Ouch.

So yes indeed, our guys need to have their focus at the foul-line tonight if they hope to earn their 51st victory of the season. They'll also have to find some way to stop Joe Johnson, whose scoring output has increased (24, 27, 34) in each game against the Magic. Maurice Evans and Keith Bogans have their work cut out for them.

Speaking of defense, let's take a similar look at the Hawks' numbers to see on what else the Magic should focus on the other end of the floor...

Atlanta Hawks Four Factors, 2007-2008 NBA Season

Pace O Rtg eFG% TO Rate OReb Rt FT Rt
Season Total 90 108.3 .483 16.5 29.8 26.3
vs. Magic 95 108.5 .518 13.4 21.0 20.6
Diff +5 +0.2 +.035 -3.1 -8.8 -5.7

There doesn't seem to be much wrong with our team defense against the Hawks this season. We've done a commendable job keeping Atlanta off the offensive glass and off the foul line. Our biggest problem has been defending the three-point line. Closing out the Hawks' shooters, especially Johnson and backcourt-mate Mike Bibby, should be another priority for us. Given our abysmal late-game defense against Minnesota on Friday night, I can't say I believe in our ability to do that.

Tipoff's at 7. Go Magic.

UPDATE: Brian Schmitz's preview at the Sentinel says that Stan Van Gundy will "slightly reduce" the minutes of Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard tonight. Interesting. Free James Augustine!

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