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Tonight's Game: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks

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2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Orlando Magic 20th anniversary logo
@
Atlanta Hawks alternate logo
56-19 43-33
April 4th, 2009
Philips Arena
7:00 PM
Sun Sports HD
Probable starters:
Rafer Alston PG Mike Bibby
Courtney Lee SG Joe Johnson
Hedo Turkoglu SF Maurice Evans
Rashard Lewis PF Josh Smith
Dwight Howard C Al Horford
Previous Meetings:
October 29th: Hawks 99, Magic 85
January 7th: Magic 106, Hawks 102
January 9th: Magic 121, Hawks 87

Entering tonight's game, the Orlando Magic are coming off an emphatic win against the NBA's best team at home; the Atlanta Hawks are coming off a hard-fought loss against the defending NBA champions on the road. Fortunately for the Hawks, they'll be the home team tonight. They're a sterling 29-9 at Philips Arena this year. However, one of those losses was to the Magic, so they can't put tonight's game on the board just yet.

What worries me is the Hawks will have plenty of frustration to take out tonight. What mitigates that is the fact that they are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the pick-and-roll. Essentially, they switch almost every time. A steady diet of high pick-and-rolls with Rafer Alston and Dwight Howard will create favorable matchups for Orlando, even moreso than usual.

Picture this: Howard and Alston run a high screen-and-roll, with Al Horford and Mike Bibby defending, respectively. Bibby switches onto Howard and anxiously fronts him while waiting for double-team help to come from the weak side in the form of Josh Smith. As Alston turns the corner on Horford, he dishes cross-court to Rashard Lewis in the corner for three. Looks good, right?

Orlando needs to be wary of Joe Johnson getting into a rhythm offensively. He's struggled against the Magic this year--the All-Star is averaging 16.3 points on 40.8% shooting against Orlando so far--and one gets the impression he's simply "due" for a great game. (How's that for analysis?). But maybe the Magic should be more concerned with... wait for it... Ronald "Flip" Murray, the journeyman reserve combo-guard who is out-shooting Johnson on three-pointers and two-pointers.

Tip's at 7. No letdown tonight. Go Magic.