You could see it in their eyes even in the first half, but even more in the second. The look of confidence was not there, instead it was the look of defeat. And Game Three was not even over. Atlanta is going to have to show up for at least one more game. Hawks fans are probably lamenting this fact after booing their team off the court in a disheartening and pitiful Game Three effort.
The Magic sit one game away from their second straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals and it seems inevitable after a 105-75 victory at Philips Arena on Saturday.
As has been the case throughout the season between these two teams, Orlando scored and scored often and then defended and defended often as Atlanta continued to struggle. There were moments even in the first quarter where the Hawks simply failed to pick up the man with the ball and allowed players to waltz down the lane.
Rashard Lewis was one who did this and continued to attack and shoot over the defense. Lewis turned in one of his better performances of an already solid playoffs with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting and four of seven from beyond the arc.
More than that, Orlando got the ball moving as Atlanta elected to double Dwight Howard in the post. Howard struggled to get going early as he did in the first two games and even found first quarter foul trouble. But it did not matter. The Magic still kept the ball moving and ran the pick and roll beautifully.
From Matt Barnes' game-opening 3-pointer to the work Jameer Nelson did probing through the paint and keeping an eye out for open shooters, Atlanta seemed relatively uninterested in defense. Not the way to defeat Orlando.
The Magic once again shot the ball incredibly well overall and from beyond the arc. They were 10 of 29 from beyond the arc and 50.7 percent from the floor. Add in 21 assists and Orlando ended with a pretty efficient and easy night.
Orlando's defense was equally as impressive. Atlanta settled for jumpers and settled for one on one play throughout the game. When the Magic were looking to make the extra pass, the Hawks were fine with playing one on one basketball. The Hawks had just nine assists in the game on 34.9 percent shooting and Joe Johnson continued to struggle with eight points on 3-of-15 shooting.
Atlanta had no answers for anything Orlando could do and was quickly out of the game. The Magic led 28-18 at the end of the first quarter and 52-33 at the half. Even with Atlanta returning home, the players seemed to have no energy and what would usually be a raucous crowd in Game Three was silent throughout the game. The Hawks made no runs at the Magic's lead and the Magic continued to pour on the points and finish the game off.
Dwight Howard did not even need to get going until the second half. He scored 21 points on six-of-eight shooting. Atlanta doubled him for most of the first half and forced him to pass to the perimeter. When the Hawks put single coverage on him, Howard simply picked apart the defense.
It was as simple as that. Everything Orlando did worked and everything Atlanta did failed.