The Orlando Magic once again presented the Atlanta Hawks far too many problems to solve, and ran away with Game 3, 105-75, to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their second-round playoff series. Rashard Lewis scored 22 points on 79.3% True Shooting, Dwight Howard added 21 with 16 boards and 3 assists, and the Magic made quick work of a sluggish Hawks squad that didn't seem too eager to defend its home floor. Sixth-Man award winner Jamal Crawford was an exception, scoring an efficient 22 points off the bench to try sparking the Hawks. But Orlando took control of the glass, finishing with a 51-34 rebound advantage, and made 8 of its first 20 three-point shots, which was too much for Atlanta to counter. Had franchise player Joe Johnson shown up, the game might've been interesting; Johnson missed 12 of his 15 shots and committed 2 turnovers en route to an 8-point outing, during which the fans at Philips Arena frequently booed him and his teammates. With Howard on the inside, Lewis on the outside, and the ball moving crisply and effectively around the floor, Orlando's offense ran smoothly. At the other end, the Hawks struggled to get good shots, and only seemed to score in transition or with second-chance points. They found it difficult to put points on the board in the halfcourt against the Magic's set defense. If all these details sound familiar, they should: they've been present for much of this playoff series, which is now almost completely devoid of drama.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's regular-season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's regular-season average.
The Magic were all business to start the game, really. Making the right reads, running to open spaces, and scoring with relative ease. And as early as their third possession, we got a great indication of how the game would play out. Lewis short-rimmed a three-pointer from the right wing, but the ball caromed directly to him about 18 feet from the rim. Johnson and Josh Smith converged to get the board, but backed off once Lewis snared it. Johnson then turned his attention to finding his man, while Smith took a step back and clapped his hands in frustration. Lewis took a few dribbles to the basket and laid it in. He's seen more aggressive defense in pregame layup lines, I can assure you. It struck me as odd that Smith would just concede the shot like that, even knowing Smith's reputation for taking plays off. It was emblematic of a problem that affected most of the Hawks players today, by my estimation: an utter lack of urgency or purpose. I Tweeted that Atlanta approached this game with all the intensity it'd bring for a January game against the Nets, and even that might have been charitable. Whereas the Magic patiently ran their offense on one end, the Hawks just forced the issue on the other. They didn't turn the ball over--they rarely do, ranking first in turnover rate this season--but just did not get good looks.
There are exceptions; not every Hawk dogged it. Crawford, for one, played his heart out, and I sort of felt sorry for him. He's making his 1st postseason appearance after 10 years in the league, and he frankly deserves better than this. Al Horford battled at both ends, and though he wasn't exceptionally effective, you can't knock his effort. The same can be said for his backup, Zaza Pachulia. But the other Hawks? Just average, I would say, with Smith and Johnson, whom many observers regard as their two best players, clocking out early.
The Magic held a 10-point lead after the first period, and though they looked far sharper than Atlanta, I felt that the Hawks stood a good chance of making a run in the second period, as the Magic's second unit has lacked luster this postseason. I was wrong, though. Marcin Gortat, J.J. Redick, and Mickael Pietrus joined starters Lewis and Jameer Nelson, and Orlando didn't miss many beats. That continued to be the story. Redick played well enough, and the lead was sufficiently large enough, that Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy let him play a majority of the shooting guard minutes. Vince Carter, the Magic's hero in Game 2, scored 7 points in 23 minutes, and spent the rest of his time on the bench, laughing and smiling the whole way.
Lewis continues to play quite well. A deadly spot-up shooter throughout his Orlando tenure, he's had ample opportunities to showcase his full repertoire in this series, harkening back to his days as a back-to-the-basket small forward as a Seattle SuperSonic. In these conference semifinals, he's scoring 17 a game on 67.7% True Shooting. He's 11-of-16 from inside the arc, which isn't even the best mark on the team; Howard's 22-of-27.
Which brings me to my next point. To beat the Magic, an opponent has to take away either Howard or their array of three-point shooters, such as Lewis. The Hawks have consistently failed to take away either in this series. Howard's scoring against single- and double-coverage, or at least getting to the foul line. And the Hawks haven't done much to discourage the sort of quick, effective ball movement that so often leads to open shots on the perimeter. Commentators often invoke the "pick your poison" axiom when referring to the challenge of stopping Orlando's offense. It's as though someone told Hawks coach Mike Woodson he had to drink either battery acid or antifreeze, and he elected to sample both.
Orlando can close out the series, and make it two consecutive sweeps to start these playoffs, on Monday.