--A big sign of Atlanta's increased energy and Orlando's lack of focus is seen in the amount of turnovers and offensive rebounds they gave up early. First possession of the game, the Hawks forced a turnover at the top of the key on a badd pass by Brandon Bass. On the third possession of the game for the Hawks, Brandon Bass had a poor rotation to help Jameer Nelson out at the 3-point line. It left Al Horford open down low for an offensive rebound and putback. It happened again the next possession as a near steal put Bass out of position and gave Horford an easy bucket.
--The Hawks were a lot faster to loose balls and 50/50 rebounds.
--Horford was going right at Brandon Bass and dominating him early. Bass just did not look super energized/focused to play. Or Horford just came in with a lot of fire after missing a bunch of the first half.
--Stan Van Gundy said after the game that Hedo Turkoglu has been passing up easy shots for difficult ones. This to me is a sign of how little confidence he has this series. Turkoglu has passed up a bunch of catch and shoot scenarios that he would normally hoist. I don't mind having him pass the ball around the horn -- ball movement is important. But the Magic need Turkoglu to be aggressive and confident.
--Atlanta has an interesting rebounding strategy. They are sending two guys to help box out Howard on the offensive end. It leaves guys open to attack the offensive glass. Should be an interesting decision for the Magic who do not like to attack the offensive glass all the time.
--Hedo Turkoglu can get to the basket in this series. He should try to do that more.
--Hawks were definitely more active and energetic defensively. Magic just did not match the same focus level and, like I said above, the Hawks were able to force turnovers because of it.
--The Magic really have no answer for Al Horford. When he puts his mind to getting to the basket, Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson can do nothing. Might be time to consider having Dwight guard him, but that comes with its own drawbacks.
--Having said all this about Atlanta coming out with more energy, etc., Orlando survived that initial punch. 25-25 after the first quarter was a good mark. The Magic just needed to take control and could not sustain until the third quarter.
--Honestly the lack of effort and intensity on defense has been a problem for a few months now. Unfortunately, this is just who the team is. There may not be a good way to fix this -- especially in a seven-game series. Defensive intensity is the variable for Orlando that decides games. The Magic had little of it in Game One and early in the second quarter and that is why the Hawks built leads in those two situations.
--The more jump shots Josh Smith takes, the better it is for the Magic.
--Really difficult to figure out what Orlando can do with Jamal Crawford. He is just in rhythm and hitting extremely difficult shots. For sure, you can't stray too far from him on the 3-point line. But even then, he is making a ton of shots. Not much you can do. The Magic have to find a way to disrupt his rhythm and make him get rid of the ball.
--Jason Richardson was on e of the few guys who really got it. He has been struggling to shoot and so he attacked the basket. He got some great looks and Orlando would really miss him for Game Four if he gets suspended.
--Howard looked like he was rushing some of his moves. Zaza Pachulia and Jason Collins did a good job playing him physically and pushing him off his spots. But to avoid turnovers and some of the fouling, perhaps he was a little rushed. Seemed like he did a lot better with this in the second half.
--Hedo Turkoglu has to make free throws. Easy way to get confidence back. Turkoglu is just not giving much when his offense struggles like this. The Hawks are playing good defense, no doubt, but the Magic shoot themselves in the foot so many times.
--Open shots just refuse to fall for Orlando. There is no explanation for this. Really none. Might be time for new players, maybe. Orlando just never goes through stretches where it cannot score like this -- even against Boston.
--We all knew Quentin Richardson would have his chance to shine for Orlando. Game Three was a good game for him. Played decent defense and made shots (3 for 3 from long range). He is just a little small to be out there guarding Josh Smith and a little slow to guard Joe Johnson. These are the reasons he has not played consistently since the trades.
--With Zaza Pachulia out on Sunday, the Magic should got to Howard even more. I don't think you want his usage rate as high as it was in Game One, but Pachulia historically defends Howard very very tough. Nobody else on Atlanta seems able to slow him down as much. Howard is very much in rhythm, patient and focused on scoring. Just about the only guy on the team you can say has all three.
--All these missed shots are getting into Orlando's heads. The team is executing fine. But when it is time to take a shot they just are not falling. That might mean the team is pressing and feeling the pressure of the moment. Very strange for a team that has this much postseason experience.
--Josh Smith should continue shooting the ball. I mean he can't miss any more than he has been. With a guy like Hedo Turkoglu on him, he should be looking to post up more and attack the basket. This is why Smith is not an All Star, he thinks these are bad ideas.
--Van Gundy has not been happy with Turkoglu this series. He said so after the game for not taking shots and he said so during the game after a 24-second shot clock violation. The Magic are putting the ball in his hands and allowing him to attack. Josh Smith's length is kind of bothering him, but nowhere near enough he should be struggling this much. File it away as another weird Turkoglu thing.
--Orlando has pretty much four guys with their feet in the paint. It is forcing Joe Johnson to stay on the perimeter and preventing them from getting to the rim. That is important against this team for sure. Atlanta has had a decreasing field goal percentage in each game of this series. The Hawks are not getting to the rim like they were in the first game. Atlanta scored only four points in the first eight minutes of the third quarter.
--At some point the Magic are going to have to defend Jamal Crawford the same way they defend Joe Johnson. Crawford has been able to get to the basket and is just purely in rhythm. Throwing the occasional double team off the first dribble or forcing him into help (that is not necessarily Dwight Howard) would be a good way to disrupt some rhythm. Just have to find a way to throw him off and make him give the ball up. As long as Horford is covered on the mid-range jumper and somebody can get to Joe Johnson quickly, a doubling strategy might work.
--Pachulia plays really good defense on Howard. He gives Howard no room to drop step or make a counter move. Gives him the equivalent of a fall-away hook shot. Hawks will miss Zaza in Game Four.
--Settling for pull-up jumpers on the pick and roll really defeats the purpose of the play. I wrote after Game Two that the Magic have to run the pick and roll to force Atlanta to double somebody and make the defense move and work. By settling for this jumper, you are giving what Atlanta wants. When Jameer Nelson or Hedo Turkgolu comes off the Howard screen they have to go right into the paint. That will either give them the layup or open up the shooter in the corner. Working inside out is not just a product of going to Howard more. Working inside out means forcing the Hawks to have to shade the paint more and give the shooter more room to fire away.
--Howard for the first time all series (at least) attacked from the high elbow. He drew a foul on Pachulia. Since the Magic run a lot of horns sets, it would be nice to see Howard add either the elbow jumper or a high post move to attack the basket to his arsenal over the summer.
--The Hawks have no excuse for not attacking the basket more. Great defense by the Magic to clog the paint.
--Orlando is going to miss Jason Richardson a lot. But the Hawks get so much energy, especially on defense, from Pachulia. Especially at home, the Hawks will need to find a way to manufacture that energy. The Magic took the lead and Pachulia made some physical plays that pumped up the Hawks and helped them on a 10-0 run to go back up eight.
--Orlando played great defense in the third quarter. The Magic were over the foul limit six minutes into the fourth quarter. Cannot happen when you are trying to regain control of the game.
--Hawks brought a lot of energy early in the game, but they looked kind of lazy in the fourth quarter and second half generally. Except Zaza Pachulia and Jamal Crawford, that is. Orlando brought the energy a little too late.
--I really do not know what Jason Richardson was doing going after Pachulia. Howard was fouled and Pachulia was yelling something. Howard would probably not have gotten a technical foul if Richardson had not come over like he did. Maybe he would have gotten a fine after the game, but not a technical. Things just escalated and it made it worse. Hard to know what was said exactly, but Richardson lost his head. Have to be disappointed in him.
--First last possession: Turkoglu goes baseline dribbles around and finds Brandon Bass open at the elbow to go up one. Good play.
--Second last possesion (out of a timeout mind you): Turkoglu takes the ball runs a high pick and roll and gets to the basket. He has a sharp angle to the basket, but Al Horford is there to meet him. Turkoglu jumps a little early (or perfectly if he was thinking of taking the shot and drawing the foul) and kicks it wildly out to Brandon Bass, nearly turning it over. Bass takes a few dribbles across the lane and finds Turkoglu in the corner with Al Horford on him after Josh Smith got caught on a Dwight Howard screen (there are 15 seconds left on the shot clock). Horford does a good job crowding Turkoglu he dribbles in, steps back and takes a really bad contested 3 with 11 second left and Dwight Howard completely sealed off by Smith. Just a bunch of really bad decisions by Turkoglu. At least give Howard the chance to rotate over and post up Smith. You have that matchup set up perfectly. Don't know why Turkoglu panicked so much. Howard was working his way to the left block to post up. If Turkoglu had waited another second or two, which he had, he would have had Dwight set up for a post up possibly, or at least in better position to rebound.
--It sucks to see a hard-fought game like this end not on a missed shot or something like that, but to see the game lost on a poor execution and mistakes by one player. I put the failures at the end of the game squarely on Turkoglu. Magic have to bring more energy defensively early on so that games don't come down to these singular decisions.
Photos via DayLife.com.