The Orlando Magic dropped their record in overtime games to 0-3 on the season Friday night, falling to the Atlanta Hawks, 89-87, at home in an ugly rematch of the 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Josh Smith, one day after learning he did not make the Eastern Conference All-Stars, stuffed the stat sheet with 23 points, 19 rebounds, and five assists for the visitors, while Joe Johnson scored two key baskets in the extra frame to propel Atlanta to victory. Ryan Anderson posted a team-high 21 points for Orlando, while Dwight Howard added 18 points and 18 boards.
It might be easy to point to the heave Marvin Williams nailed from just inside midcourt to end the first half as the difference in Friday's game--a miracle three helps Atlanta pull off a two-point overtime win--but that simply wouldn't be fair to the Hawks, who executed a sound defensive game plan to near-perfection. For much of the game's first three quarters, the Hawks succeeded in limiting Howard's effectiveness and Orlando's ability to shoot the three-pointer. Through 36 minutes, Howard shot 6-of-12 for 14 points against single-coverage from Zaza Pachulia, while the Magic managed to hoist only 16 triples, making six. Containing Howard on the interior and running the Magic's perimeter players off the arc proved effective for the Hawks.
None of this analysis is particularly insightful or fresh, given the fact that Atlanta implemented it in that aforementioned playoff series. What's different now, if only slightly, is the makeup of the Magic's roster. On a night when Orlando needed overtime to crack the 80-point barrier, scoring machine Von Wafer did not earn any playing time. Curious.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Orlando had its chances to win this game, but blew them, and that's where dwelling on Williams' deep three becomes problematical. Orlando left six points at the foul line and committed 17 turnovers for 20 Atlanta points, for example. With 11.6 seconds to play in overtime and a chance to tie the game at 88, Jason Richardson missed the second of two free throws, forcing Orlando to play the foul game. Though Pachulia only went 1-of-2 at the line as well, the Magic also squandered two chances on that possession to intentionally foul Smith, a 54 percent free-throw shooter.
Worse, Hedo Turkoglu continued his beyond-erratic play, as the Turkish forward who proved key to Orlando's 10-3 start committed some costly errors in Friday's loss. He showed signs of life in overtime, scoring Orlando's first five points in the extra frame with a decisively launched three and an aggressive drive to the rim. But he also lost his dribble out of bounds and committed an over-and-back violation on a pass Smith deflected for two of his game-high six turnovers.
The Magic can hang their headbands--or Quentin Richardson's, anyway--on the stout defense they played for the final 3:43 of regulation. Following a Smith slam that put Atlanta up seven points, Orlando yielded just one point the rest of the way. But 3:43 of brilliant defense isn't nearly enough for a team that fancies itself a championship contender.