The Orlando Magic can take a commanding, 3-0 series lead against the Atlanta Hawks with a victory today at Philips Arena. After the Hawks' second-half meltdown in Game 2, which Orlando hosted, Tania Ganguli reports forward Josh Smith "pleaded" to a local TV camera, begging the fans to come to Philips and "sell it out like they sold out this arena." And why would't he be happy to go home? The Hawks went 34-7 there this season, compared to 19-22 on the road. They need a win, and if they're going to get one, their building is the most likely place.
|2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals|
|Orlando Leads, 2-0|
|May 8th, 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|
|Eddie F. Rush|
I also think they made enough progress in Game 2 to realistically get a win today. Orlando led by just 1 point after three quarters, but took control of the game early in the third with a quick run to get itself, and its home crowd, back into it. Should the same situation play out tonight, the Magic won't have the crowd on their side. And if Smith is going to pout at home the way he did in Game 2, well, the team is hopeless anyway. But I look at it this way: the same calls from which Magic center Dwight Howard benefitted in Game 2 on his way to 18 first-quarter points will not go his way in Philips, and perhaps not with this officiating crew, which Dan Crawford leads. Crawford was the lead official in the Magic's first postseason game of 2010, in which Howard picked up 5 fouls. And Al Horford, Howard's Atlanta counterpart, had his way with Magic reserve Marcin Gortat when the two were matched head-to-head. It's really not hard to picture the Hawks winning by 8 or 10 points today, with their backs against the wall here.
Then again, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has his team dialed in, as it's won 12 straight games. Sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats last round required winning 2 in Charlotte, where the Bobcats tallied a 31-10 record. When asked about how the Hawks are a different, more dangerous team at home, Van Gundy said, "That's what they said about Charlotte."
The game tips at 5.