The Orlando Magic shot 2-of-23 on three-pointers, the worst high-volume mark in NBA Playoff history, in falling to the Atlanta Hawks, 88-85, Sunday evening. The Magic return to Orlando for Tuesday's Game Five facing elimination as Atlanta now owns a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
Once again, reserve guard Jamal Crawford led the charge for Atlanta, scoring 25 points in 33 minutes. And once again, the Magic had long stretches of offensive futility due to turnovers and poor shooting. Quentin Richardson sank the Magic's first three-point attempt of the game, but the team went on to miss 18 in a row before Gilbert Arenas flung one in drifting to his left, just trying to draw a cheap foul.
Trailing by three and with 10.5 seconds remaining, the Magic put the ball in Hedo Turkoglu's hands and asked him to create a tying shot off the dribble. It didn't go as planned. Trapped by Al Horford along the right sideline, Turkoglu lost control of the ball. He recovered it off the floor--just barely beating Horford to it--took a few dribbles to his right, and launched a three that hadn't a prayer. He was fortunate to even get it off; Horford, recognizing the time-and-score situation, gave several fouls that went uncalled on the play, but the officials laid off the whistle.
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's regular-season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's regular-season average.
There were few new developments in this game. The Magic still have to:
contain Joe Johnson;
and take care of the ball.
About all that's changed is the sudden emergence of Arenas, who had, at least on this night, the look of a useful NBA player again. Arenas earned a Did Not Play-Coach's Decision in Game Three as coach Stan Van Gundy called on Turkoglu to play point forward, but he elected to give Arenas a go tonight. The Magic's big-name midseason acquisition delivered, to a degree, pouring in 20 points in 22 minutes, the sort of high-pressure outing Magic fans had hoped for. Only he and Dwight Howard (a game-high 29 points) could score consistently.
And while Arenas used 18 shooting possessions to get those points, the manner in which he scored has to be encouraging. No, he didn't regain the jets that made him one of the league's toughest covers in his prime; he just drove to the basket against soft interior defense off screen-and-roll plays. Instead of hanging around on the perimeter and taking contested jumpers off the screens, he came around them hard, with his head down, and every intention to get all the way to the rim. That's what we need to see more of from him.
I understand that I've buried the lede a bit here, that talking about Gilbert Arenas scoring 20 off the bench when the Magic went down into a deep, discouraging, 3-1 hole to a team such as Atlanta is the blogging equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. Believe me, I get that. But, given how the game transpired as a sort of parody of the two previous Magic losses in the series, there's not a lot left to go on. We'll eulogize the Magic at the proper time, which is to say we'll eulogize them when they're eliminated. That's not here quite yet, but it can be as soon as Tuesday if Orlando doesn't correct those issues outlined above.
But really, a lot of their problems come down to missing shots they normally make. Van Gundy and his brother Jeff, also a member of the coaching fraternity, like to say, "it's a make or miss league." In this series, Crawford and the Hawks have made shots; apart from Howard, Arenas, and Quentin Richardson (61.2 percent), the Magic have not. Their teammates stand at 30.4 percent, including a staggering 16.7 percent from Turkoglu, who will need a gangbusters Game Five to avoid finishing the playoffs with a shooting percentage above the Mendoza Line.