--Steve Kerr really stressed the difference between regular season basketball and Playoff basketball throughout the game. He said very early on how guys who fit the matchup will play for the first time in months (Jason Collins). Also mentioned later how seeing different opponents helps guys shake off poor shooting nights. Seeing the same guys and jersey can sometimes just further feed the slump.
--Dwight Howard has to improve his passing and decision-making in the offseason. Orlando wanted to run more after the trades and frankly they could not. That is partly becuase Jameer Nelson is not great in transition. But that is also because Howard does not make good outlet passes. Early in the game he received the ball at mid-court. He attempted to hand the ball of to Nelson as he ran past and had the pass picked off by Kirk Hinrich. What he should have done was square to the basket and try to push the ball up court to an outlet there or wait for a sure pass to a guard. Even after rebounds, Howard is often slow to turn and outlet. Part of that is Nelson getting up the floor more, but Howard just does not look to get the ball up the floor quickly. He has to be better in this area next year if this roster hangs around.
--The Hawks take some of the worst quick shots ever. They really should have wrapped this series up already.
--The missed 3-pointers are made worse because they are taken before Howard can get offensive rebounding position. Hedo Turkoglu came off a screen and hoisted a quick three. That is not necessarily a bad shot, lord knows he has hit plenty of those throughout his career. But the blow of these semi-contested shots is lessened when Howard or Brandon Bass is in position to support on the glass. Atlanta did a good job putting two guys on Howard to box out throughout the game. He was not in great position for offensive rebounds, especially early. Quick shots don't help him there either.
--In additition to avoiding these quick shots, the Magic have to attack the basket more. Early on even though the Magic were struggling to shoot, their points came off of dribble penetration. Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson did a good job when they attacked the basket. Unfortunately, they also settled way too much.
--Hawks offense played a lot more fluid and free with Howard out of the game in the first quarter. Lots more ball movement and open looks. Hawks went on a 10-2 run after Howard picked up his second foul. I think Dwight might need to play 48 minutes again.
--Steve Kerr speaks the truth: without Dwight Howard the Magic might be one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Also might be the smallest left in the playoffs. Don't know if Otis Smith thought of that or not when he made the trades. Kerr also calls the Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas contracts potential albatrosses hanging around Orlando's neck. Kerr was a former general manager with the Suns.
--Stan Van Gundy, through his comments both during this game and after them, is pretty convinced his team's offense will come eventually. I have to agree that there is not a whole lot he can do. The Magic have been executing decently -- taking out turnovers and some quick shots. They are missing open jumpers. Coaching can only get you so far in this league. Van Gundy just has to continue to encourage guys to attack the basket and trust the shots will come.
--Gilbert Arenas' first possession with the ball was a drive to the basket, missed lay up and put back. Preface for things to come. He seemed like he needed to get into the rhythm of the game more. I would expect to see Arenas more in Game Five.
--Really no 3-pointer should be taken without Howard firmlglass.e paint with a chance to get the offensive glass. The Magic have to look to attack the offensive glass more. I know this goes against Orlando's general philosophy to get back and stop transition points. This might be a risk Stan Van Gundy has to explore in Game Five.
--Between the quick shots with no ball movement and the turnovers, Atlanta does a very good job keeping Orlando in the game.
--Turkoglu is just so out of rhythm. Even when he attacks the basket, he cannot finish. Just so strange.
--Here is the next problem Orlando can and should fix for Game Five. Each player is searching so much for their own shot, they are forgetting what really makes this team successful: ball movement. The Magic have always worked best when the driver or Howard gets the hockey assist. It is not the first shooter that gets the good shot, it is the next one. Orlando has to make this extra pass. Midway through the second quarter, Ryan Anderson got a perfectly good, wide-open look at the top of the key that he took. This is a good shot. But Hedo Turkoglu was also wide open on the wing. One more pass might have gotten a better, more in-rhythm look.
--I hate pointing to one play to decide a game, but I would like a clearer explanation over that Josh Smith goaltend with 2:32 left in the second quarter. Smith grabbed the net while trying to block a Dwight Howard shot. He never touched the ball and was called for a technical foul. Ryan Anderson got the put back, but the Magic got no points for this. Redick made the technical free throw and then they had a jump ball. Magic won the jump ball and did not score on the ensuing possession (Anderson missed an open 3). Instead of getting three points, Orlando got only one. The officiating on this play made zero sense. Making matters worse, Josh Powell hit a two on Atlanta's next possession. That is enough to affect the end of this game.
--Turkoglu is missing shots in rhythm. He is fading away and making things more difficult than he has to. Turk is playing decent defense on Joe Johnson, but he has very little value if he is not hitting his shot.
--I will also reiterate, Howard has to strengthn his lower body. Jason Collins does a great job pushing Howard out of the paint and off his spot. Kendrick Perkins does the same thing. If you jsut look physically at their legs, you can see why. Howard still has legs like sticks. Didn't think he needed to hit the weight room more.
--I will reiterate again, this is partially Nelson and partially Howard. But somebody has to get out more to star the fast break. And Howard has to grab the rebound, turn (with the outside pivot foot, as my high school coach always yelled at me) and get rid of the ball quicker. Even when Orlando had a chance to get out on the break, they are slow to develop the transition. This is partly because Howard is slow to turn and look down the floor and partially because Nelson tends to close the space between him and Howard.
--Jameer Nelson took a lot of heat-check shots. I don't think he is on fire at all.
--Atlanta helped out a lot of this with quick, contested shots. But the Magic have played pretty good defense throughout this series. Most of Jamal Crawford's points have come off of pull-up jumpers over outstretched hands -- not just a matter of Jameer Nelson's or Gilbert Arenas' height, he has long arms to begin with. The only thing Orlando has consistently had trouble with is Josh Smith post ups (which he doesn't do often) and Joe Johnson driving into the lane usually toward his right and putting up that floater. He has that shot down.
--Why I think Orlando can come back in this series: I cannot tell if the Hawks should have swept it or the Magic should be up 3-1. Seriously, the Hawks can play good enough offense to have won all four games. And the Magic have played good enough defense to do the same -- with some shots falling.
--Hilton Armstrong cannot defend Dwight Howard. Even if you push him out, Howard can easily hook a shot over him.
--Something to file away in your files: Gilbert Arenas touched the rim trying to defend a Josh Smith fast break. Not enough to dunk the ball, granted, but just seeing him touch the rim was encouraging in itself. Sunday was by far the best Arenas looked in a Magic uniform. Very encouraging not only for Tuesday but also for the summer when he will be working out with Tim Grover.
--I don't know what the strategy or communication is on this for the team, but I get the sense the Magic need to do a better job communicating on picks. Quentin Richardson got blinded by one and Arenas did a poor job fighting through one that it just did not feel like he knew was coming. It sounds like I am piling on Dwight here (trust me, I'm not trying to, he just has a lot on his shoulders and is expected to do everything) but it is most likely his job to call out the picks are coming. Both the plays I described ended in Jamal Crawford jumpers that were fairly open.
--We talked a lot about Arenas needing some time to get into rhythm and just kind of didn't believe it. Maybe though there is truth to it. Maybe Gilbert needed some time to get into a rhythm and find his groove. Every time he attacked off the pick and roll it seemed like something ood would happen, except maybe that one turnover he had.
--The Hawks really should have blown the Magic out. They exectuted better, just were not patient at all. And that is the reason why I think Orlando can still win this series. Atlanta has played a great series and has still nearly lost two of its three wins. But the way the Hawks have played also is how they played all year. The Magic have not played offense like they have all year. Their is still a chance Orlando will drastically improve. And if the Magic do, the Hawks are in BIG trouble.
--Primordal scream rom Howard after the thunderous layup. Surprised he didn't get a technical or delay of game.
--The Hawks need to avoid putting Josh Smith on Dwight Howard. Howard just abused him. Getting Zaza Pachulia back on Tuesday will help tremendously to prevent this.
--The one thing going very against the Magic this series is that Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are so good at creating their own shots that even if you play good defense against them, they will hit shots in big moments. Crawford did it in Game Three and Johnson did it in Game Four. The Magic really do not have a player you trust to do that when push comes to shove. The only thing it seemed Hedo Turkgolu could do with Joe Johnson in the final three minutes was foul him.
--Atlanta really had a chance to put this game away. The Magic missed a ton of shots between three and two minutes to go -- some badly -- and the Hawks left a lot of points on the board. Joe Johnson missed some floaters and Jason Collins and Al Horford had some point blank shots they just missed. Hawks still had a 7-point lead with 90 seconds to play and still almost blew it.
--The Hawks got three chances to make it a five point game, ending in a 24-second shot clock violation with 28 seconds left. Atlanta has no clue how to close, just how to hang on. Another reason to believe Orlando can still win this series.
--Turkoglu's bad shot started with a bad screen by Howard. The play starts with Arenas coming high to get the ball. Howard is then supposed to set a screen on Al Horford to free up Turkoglu for the three (in a normal situation, it might also free up Howard to roll hard down the middle of the lane). However, Turkoglu starts running to the wing early and Howard does not have enough time to set a good solid screen. He bumps Horford, but not enough. Instead of having some space to take the three immediately, Horford is right in his face and has the length to knowck the ball away. Meanwhile everyone else just stands around and watches, including Howard who kind of looks like he wants to set another screen, I think.
Photos via DayLife.com.