The Orlando Magic will look to sweep the season series from the Atlanta Hawks, and to beat them for the 7th straight time overall, tonight at Philips Arena. Atlanta's strong season has drawn comparisons to Magic squads of years past, and the Hawks are primed for their first 50-win season in more than a decade. But they've been miserable against the Magic this year, losing by an average of 22.3 points. Orlando's stretch fours give Atlanta fits, as the Hawks' strategy of switching every screen often leads to a much smaller player having to contend with Rashard Lewis or Ryan Anderson in the low post. And they're especially ill-equipped to defend Dwight Howard, who's tuned them up this year for 21.7 points, 14.3 boards, and 3.3 blocks on 60.7% shooting from the field. Bret LaGree of Hoopinion excellently broke down the Hawks' struggles against the Magic in this post.
|2009/2010 NBA Season
|50-21 (22-14 away)
|45-25 (28-7 home)
|March 24th, 2010
|November 26th: Magic 93, Hawks 76
|January 9th: Magic 113, Hawks 81
|January 30th: Magic 104, Hawks 86
The Hawks aren't a great defensive outfit, but have a fearsome offense. Orlando's caught them on three off nights, which has made their 3-0 advantage this season seem incredibly easy. But the two wins at Amway Arena came the night immediately after emotional Atlanta wins over Boston, so the Magic haven't seen the likes of Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford at full strength. That's something to watch for tonight, absolutely. Those two can get it going in a hurry.
Another thing to watch, and I'm finding myself saying this a lot lately, is the power forward rotation. Anderson's slump has relegated him to the end of the bench, with Brandon Bass taking over his spot in the rotation. However, Anderson has torched Atlanta in his brief career. Incinerated, even: in 7 games, he's posted 12.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 20.9 minutes, shooting 60.9% from the floor, 65.2% from three-point range, and 94.7% from the foul line. Orlando's really rocked and rolled lately, and coach Stan Van Gundy has said he's not interested in tweaking his rotation as long as he's winning. But given how well Anderson has played against the Hawks, Van Gundy should really consider making an exception.