Contrary to (Un)popular Belief, the Atlanta Hawks' Starting Lineup is Not "Slightly Better" Than the Orlando Magic's Starting Lineup

The Orlando Magic's two wins against the Atlanta Hawks this week went a long way toward showing just how wide the gap between the Southeast Division's first- and second-place teams is. You may recall after the first win, Terence Moore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote the following about the teams' respective starting lineups:

Look at it this way: The Magic are loaded with an impressive frontcourt of Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis to complement [Dwight] Howard. In the backcourt, they have rising point guard [Jameer] Nelson, and promising rookie Courtney Lee. The Hawks' starting five is slightly better than that.

So, let's see how that claim played out during this week's games: how many points did each team score when those lineups were matched-up with one another? The answers is after the jump.

In the first game, which was much more hotly contested than the second one, the teams' starting lineups shared the floor for a total of 18:02. The table below shows a specific breakdown:

Atlanta Hawks Starting Lineup vs. the Orlando Magic Starting Lineup, January 7th, 2009
Period (Duration) Hawks Starters Magic Starters
1st (6:28) 9 17
3rd (5:31) 8 11
4th (6:03) 14 9
TOTAL (18:02) 31 37

The Hawks' late rally makes this differential respectable. However, when one considers the Hawks had three full days of rest before the game and the advantage of playing at home, while the Magic were playing their third game in four nights, the strength of the Magic's starting unit becomes clearer.

On to the most recent game:

Atlanta Hawks Starting Lineup vs. the Orlando Magic Starting Lineup, January 9th, 2009
Period (Duration) Hawks Starters Magic Starters
1st (5:07) 4 20
3rd (4:16) 5 11
TOTAL (9:23) 9 31

Indeed, the Magic's starters needed only 9 minutes and 23 seconds to more than triple the score against the Hawks' starters in this game, which--as evidenced by Orlando's 38-point halftime lead--was never really a contest.

All told, the tally for the two games is as follows:

Atlanta Hawks Starting Lineup vs. the Orlando Magic Starting Lineup, January 7th and January 9th, 2009
Date (Duration) Hawks Starters Magic Starters
7th (18:02) 31 37
9th (9:23) 9 31
TOTAL (27:25) 40 68

When matched-up with one another over the course of their two most recent meetings, the Magic's first unit outscored the Hawks' first unit by a little more than one point per minute. It should now be quite obvious to all observers that the Atlanta Hawks' starting lineup of Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford is not "slightly better" than the Orlando Magic's starting lineup of Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard. In fact, the opposite is true.

The author consulted GameFlows from PopcornMachine (1, 2) and Play-by-Play information from ESPN.com (1, 2) in writing this post.

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