With a win tonight, the Orlando Magic can become the second team to sweep its way into the Conference Finals this season, and the 6th team to open a postseason with an 8-0 record, when they face the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 of their second-round series. Coach Stan Van Gundy says his team "is trying to play our best game of the playoffs tonight" and will not take victory for granted. For what it's worth, the Magic are 5-1 in closeout games in Van Gundy's tenure.
|2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals|
|Orlando Leads, 3-0|
|May 10th, 2010|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Mike Bibby|
|Vince Carter||SG||Joe Johnson|
|Matt Barnes||SF||Marvin Williams|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Josh Smith|
|Dwight Howard||C||Al Horford|
|May 4th: Magic 114, Hawks 71|
|May 6th: Magic 112, Hawks 98|
|Magi 8th: Magic 105, Hawks 75|
For Orlando, it's a question of maintaining focus and energy. The Magic were happy to win Game 30 as comfortably as they did, but Van Gundy noticed they got into some bad habits on defense, which prompted him to conduct a longer-than-usual session of film study yesterday. So maybe David Aldridge was wrong when he wrote, "You can see the gears in SVG's head turning as he desperately looks for something to yell at his 7-0-in-the-playoffs team" this morning.
After suffering a 30-point loss at home in Game 3, Hawks star Joe Johnson said he "could care less" about whether or not fans pack Philips Arena, a statement which he's since retracted. He's also on the attack here, promising a better effort tonight.
They have nothing to lose, frankly, which is why I believe the Hawks will give a more honest effort tonight. Johnson is playing for a contract this summer, and although he'll almost certainly get the maximum deal he wants, his postseason performance has raised questions about his reliability and legitimacy as a number-one option. Atlanta coach Mike Woodson is also coaching for his job, as his contract expires this summer. It's hard to imagine the Hawks wanting him back, considering his 0-7 record in second-round play over the last two seasons, with each loss coming by double-digits. So we could see the end of an era tonight, in a way. Peachtree Hoops has already finished this chapter of Hawks history, saying they've shifted from a "rising" team to a "mediocre" one. Again, nothing to lose for these Hawks tonight.