I know I sound like a broken record. Literally the last three adjustments I have suggested have been, in essence suggesting the same thing. But it bears repeating, especially considering that Orlando is likely to receive the most focused Atlanta team since Game One. The Hawks were largely uninspired throughout Game One, but the Magic did not take the game until the energy level went up with J.J. Redick's play.
J.J. Redick helped key an 11-0 run in the first quarter by his pure energy. What might have been most amazing about his 14-point performance in Game Five was that Redick mad six of eight shots and did not attempt a 3-pointer.
Redick is often associated with 3-point shooting. It was what made him an icon at Duke and what got him drafted No. 11. It was helped him earn playing time initially until his defense caught up.
But with Orlando's season on the brink, Redick did not spark Orlando's offense (finally) with his sweet shooting or Better Basketball shooting tips. No, Redick was able to get going offensively because for the first time all season neither he nor his team settled. It might have helped to have Dwight Howard off the floor, but Redick was able to find gaps on the defense and did not settle for the first jumper. Instead he looked to attack and get into the gaps defensively, finding room for mid-range jumpers and passes back out to the perimeter.
Redick's ability to attack off the dribble and still rise up and shoot for, perhaps, a less efficient shot, but a more open one helped turn things around. What might be a better sign than Redick not taking any 3-pointers is that he had three assists in Game Five after having just two assists in the previous four games.
Atlanta will certainly change its defense tonight. Not only will the Hawks play with more effort and energy, but they should also be looking to be more aggressive sticking to shooters. As this series has gone on, Atlanta has pinched down on Dwight Howard more and more, opening up space for 3-point shooters. Orlando finally shot the ball well in Game Five, but most would also agree -- Stan Van Gundy at least did -- that many of the looks in Game Four were good ones.
Expect the Hawks to stick more to single coverage on Howard tonight and to have the perimeter defenders say on the shooters more.
That makes it more imperative for the Magic to be aggressive on screen and rolls and try to get into the paint. Orlando must remember it is often not the first good look that is the best shot opportunity on any given possession. In the first four games, Orlando went away from its next pass mentality. As shots continued not to fall, players -- especially Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu -- went into hero ball and tried to force their way into making shots by simply taking more shots.
Game Five should have proven Orlando needs to attack the basket more, not less to be successful. And it is not just Dwight Howard that should be looking to get shots within 10 feet.
Orlando has been able to get to the rim when it wants to. In Game One, arguably Orlando's worst overall performance in the series, the Magic got 23 shots at the rim. Twelve came from Dwight and six from Jameer Nelson. An additional 16 shots came from 3-9 feet but 10 of those came from Howard. In Game One, getting to the basket was a big problem.
The Magic got better with it in Game Four, as Gilbert Arenas (of all people) came hard off of Dwight's screens and went to the basket. He continued to do that in Game Five too, showing signs that he might actually be useful.
To be sure, Atlanta is going to try and use its length to keep Orlando on the perimeter and turn this into a jump-shooting game again. If it becomes a game of jump shots, the Hawks very well could win again. The Magic need to make sure they continue to push the pace and get out on the break. They must continue to find ways to attack the basket either through the pick and roll or through curl actions with Howard setting the screen.
Most importantly, playing with an attacking mindset means the energy is high. And that will be the biggest key to extending the series one more time. The Magic must match the Hawks' energy -- especially early. A good way to do that is to get them in foul trouble and continue to attack the paint hard, working inside-out to get their shots.
Photo via DayLife.com.