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NBA Playoffs, Magic Hawks Game 1: Orlando beats Atlanta so bad that Cleveland gets the message

May 5, 2010, 12:22 AM EDT

Hawks_loss.jpgThat was THE statement game of the playoffs.

Everyone keeps on assuming that we are destined for a Cleveland vs. Los Angeles Finals, Kobe and LeBron. Just like everybody assumed that we were going to get that last year.

Orlando is here to remind you they were the best team in the East last year and they are a better team this year. The regular season is nice and all, but the Magic are built for the playoffs.

They sent a message by demoralizing and demolishing Atlanta 114-71 in game one.

The game was actually close through one quarter (27-25 Orlando) but the seeds of destruction had been sewn. Orlando was shaking off the rust, and their defense was starting to really come around. Dwight Howard had four blocks early (he finished with five) and soon the Hawks were no longer cutting to the basket but relying on isolation, which led to long jump shots. And misses.

Midway through the first quarter, Atlanta coach Mike Woodson took out his starting center in Al Horford, with the theory that he could later match him up against Magic backup center Martin Gortat and exploit that matchup. But he replaced Horford with the zombie that is Jason Collins, and suddenly Howard went to work. Collins committed two fouls and was out of the game again almost before he was announced.

Zaza Pachulia came in, but Howard just started backing him down for dunks. So the Hawks started to aggressively double Howard in the post — and now you have played right into the hands of the Magic. A kick out pass, the extra pass and JJ Redick or Jameer Nelson or someone is just draining open threes.

The Magic went on a 17-0 run in the second quarter and won the quarter 28-10. The Hawks were 4 of 17 shooting in the quarter with seven turnovers (which led to easy transition baskets).

The third quarter was worse, the Magic won that one 32-11 as lanes opened for Magic players to cut to the hoop, get the pass and have nobody at the rim to stop them. The Magic scored 32 points in the paint in those two quarters alone. Howard finished with 21, Vince Carter with 20, Nelson with 19. And they sat a lot.

Game two is not going to be exactly like this. The Hawks cannot play this bad again. But in their regular season matchups less severe versions of this same scenario played out. The Magic have a starting five that can best the Hawks starting five, and the Magic bench blows Atlanta out of the water. The Magic have matchup advantages they can easily exploit, while Howard takes away the easy baskets the Hawks try to get off their mismatches.

The Magic have made a statement. The Hawks were simply the vehicle. The Cavaliers were the intended recipients.

  1. Dinakar - May 5, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    For sure Lebron must be worried. Even if cavs can beat celtics,I wouldn’t see cavs winning against Magic in the finals.

  2. NC - May 5, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    I hope the Cavs are busy watching that Orlando-Hawks series. It will make it that much easier for the Celtics to finish them off. Dumb premise for an article when the Cavs aren’t in control of their own series…

  3. Torres from Cleveland! - May 5, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    Do you realize that Atlanta sucks?…. If the Cavs had such an easy route like Orlando has/had, no one would even be questioning this!? Cav’s are going to win it all, F all U!

  4. Ace Young - May 5, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    You commenters and Kurt Hein have stepped up to a new level of moronity. Did anyone really think that the Cavs were simply going to walk all over the Celtics? Did anyone really think that the Hawks were going to give the Magic any kind of series? The Cavs knew that the Celtics would not be a breeze, and that it was not going to be a cakewalk to get to the NBA finals. There’s no message being sent or received by anyone and there’s no worrying for Lebron. It’s going to be business as usual for the Cavs & the Celtics on Friday and may the better team win. (Which should be the Cavs, but we will see). The winner of that series will then take on the Magic in an epic Eastern Conference finals series. All of you get a clue about playoff basketball. The strong survive and the weak get defeated and it should have been evident from the start that the Hawks were no match for anyone and that the Cavs, Magic and Celtics were going to fight it out for Eastern Conference Supremacy.

  5. Cindy from Orlando - May 5, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    I can not wait till Orlando and Cleveland play in their series together, it will be very exciting! Go Orlando Magic!!

  6. D-12 - May 5, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    The Cavs had the lowest seed in Chicago, and still lost a game in the first round. The Magic did what a top seed is supposed to do in the first round, dominate their opponent. And they are doing it again with their second round opponent. Look for a repeat in the Conference Finals, regardless of the opponent.

  7. OOOOOOO-town - May 5, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    so you do realize that the Cavs played the bulls and now the celtics in the playoffs so far right? The bulls were the 8th seed (aka the lowest possible position left to get into the playoffs, they were there with a 41-41 record) yet the cavs still lost 1 game to them? THe magics’ opponent, the Bobcats, had an over .500 record and got swept. Now for round 2. The atlanta hawks beat the boston celtics all 4 times they played them this year. I know the playoffs is a different time and teams play differently once they get to the postseason, but the fact that you think that the media is overlooking clevelands opponents while making too big of a point of a 43 point win by the magic? Give me a break, go back to knowing nothing about basketball and just following what Sportscenter/Espn and Nike tell you to like…dumbass

  8. troy from akron - May 5, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    The Cavs are gonna win it all! I get tired of you people trying to blow smoke up our a–. When The “KING” holds up the trophy, I’m gonna get back on here and rub it in..You guys run your pie holes like you are professional coaches and you truly don’t know crap about basketball.Cleveland has the deepest bench, the best starting line-up, and the old Celtics,the “lucky Majic” and the one man Lakers team will be weeping.So set back Cavs Fans and enjoy the ride. The “King” will bring it home.

  9. Boston Don - May 5, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    Dumb article considering they are still playing the Celtics, and lost home court advantage.

  10. Boston Don - May 5, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    Sorry Troy, but not entirely true…
    LeBron may be the “King”, and he is quite the player, that’s true, but he is only ONE player. Boston’s starting line up is better than the “King” and the bench deeper than the “King”.

  11. bwood - May 5, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    You just put a negative against the Lakers for being a “one man” team. What do you consider the Cavs?, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynam would absolutely embarass anyone besides Lebron on the Cavs. The Magic’s 9th player would start for the Cavs. Get your head out of Akron and in to the real world where one player doesn’t win a championship (maybe Nike and ESPN help though, we all know they want the stupid Kobe/Lebron commericials to mean something). Its also too bad Kobe is such a better finisher than Lebron. Dont be complacent when all you’ve won is overhyped MVP awards.

  12. Troy from Akron - May 5, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    Really Don, did you forget about Jamison,Parker,West,Hickson,and Moon… These guys are very good players,I will give the last game to ya bro,hands down.. But when the Cavs are clickin, we’ll come back just like the first game, and get out a whole 2-liter of whoopa–, and spank ya like we did before. The Celtics look great the last game, but you know the saying” the sun will shine on dogs a– once in while.

  13. Troy from Akron - May 5, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    Hey ahh,, Bwood, if he’s a better finisher, why didn’t he get MVP.
    You must see something different then the people who have a vote, or they would have voted Kobe MVP.. DAHHHH Besides, Lebron has class, Kobe is a little girl raper with a few good players around him that picks up the slack..

  14. Arock1972 - May 5, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Yea troy boy your Cavs are going to just what they did to the magic last year which is walk off the court probaly in 5 this year pissing and moaning and not shaking hands, If it were not for the refs this year your sore loser cavs would be down 0-2 right now as for Lebron he is a poor sport and a cry baby alot of people lost respect last year when he ran off the court with out shaking d. howards hand last year so go ahead and in about 3 more games when boston is done with your little crybabbies you can get back on here then, and wait another 30-40 years for a championship

  15. Troy from Akron - May 5, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    Wow Arock,you might be right, i can tell that you are a very intelligent man by your grammer,great sentences, and correct puncuations.Can you even right a real sentence bro? You must be one of Kobe’s boys when he decides to be gay for a weekend.If Lebron decides to leave Cleveland, your gonna be one of those guys who wish they had him.Cleveland is a much better team than last year, I’m not worried about the Majic, Howard will get hit with the “DIESEL” just like Rhondo did.

  16. arock1972 - May 5, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    WOW troy you are a troll, Maybe the browns can win you a championship this year, oh thats right your pathetic city has won anything in what 40 years. Ha Ha its so funny how you little trolls get on here and pretend to know anything about sports your a loser like the cavs the browns and the indians, pretty much the city of CLE Loser Ha ha ha

  17. Mo from Orlando - May 5, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    You are an idiot if you think Cleveland has a shot at this. You won’t beat Boston. I don’t know what you are talking about when you say an easier route, they are seeded for a reason and Atlanta is the #3. What a D A uou are!

  18. Max From Orlando - May 5, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    Hey Torres From Cleveland, the excuse that Orlando is having an easier road to the Eastern Conference Finals this year is a bunch of garbage. Lets not forget that Orlando beat both Boston & Cleveland in the playoffs last year. Expect the Magic to beat Atlanta in 4 or 5. Sorry to break it to you, but the Magic will see Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.

  19. Tim from Orlando - May 5, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    Look man Lebron might be the best player in basketball, and he might have the best supporting cast around him that he’s ever had, and he won MVP for being a better all-around player than anyone else, but he’s definitely not as much of a cold-blooded killer closer as Kobe, and the Cavs won’t make it past Orlando. The Magic’s bench is far, far superior to Cleveland’s, their ball movement is better, there are more scorers, Mo Williams is going to get absolutely smoked by Jameer Nelson just like he has by Rondo and DRose, and sure Shaq can slow down Dwight, but Dwight’s presence of defense forces the Cavs to be unable to execute their back-cuts for easy buckets. So then you’ve got Lebron shooting long jumpers, Mo Williams shooting contested threes, and Jamison sitting out on the three point line to try open up what will already be an extremely contested lane while the Magic has the league’s best inside-out game and strong transition and side to side ball movement offense. The only way the Cavs win is if the Magic have one of their worst shooting performances ever and allow the Cavs to score 40-50 points in transition.

  20. TJ from CLE - May 5, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    I would love to say that the Cavs are going to bring a championship to a city that has not seen one since 1964. And I thought they had a chance until Lebron hurt his elbow. But seeing that Lebron is clearly not himself and the rest of the team has no clue what to do without him taking outside shots, Orlando and Boston are now the favorites in the East. I’m not giving up hope but it sure looks like Cleveland’s favorite moto will be in play very soon: “Wait til next year”.

  21. mike - May 5, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    being from cleveland and a cavs fan, cleveland should be very worried we got lucky against the bulls, it was jamison who saved us from getting swept! don’t believe it? just look at the box score from each of those games, look at the final scores then minus jamison 19 point average. we should be down 0-2 with boston, no one can argue that the refs are doing everything to give it to us, just look at game 2, the cavs were not called for 1 foul in the second quarter? in the nba, in round 2 of the playoffs and not 1 foul call in the 2nd quarter against the cavs really?? how is that possible what game were the refs watching? does anyone think we are really going to go into boston and take 2 games? im sorry in case you didn’t get the memo “the sleeping giants known as the celtics have awaken” they have 8 players that can score at will….we only have lebron, and he’s hurt

  22. D from the Comish's Buro - May 5, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    It’s clear to a judicious mind like mine that you and arock1972 are either the same guy, or you’re sitting together caressing each other penises and tittering about how much fun you’re having.
    Just for your info: We in the league office know that the fans would like to see a rematch between the LA and Boston, so we’re going to make sure it plays out that way. Not that we need to, mind you, but we’re prepared.

  23. Doug D - May 5, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    Looks like another Disneyland vs Disneyworld finals!

  24. Jayson from Chicago - May 5, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    OK… I’m a huge Magic fan, but its time to be reasonable people. First, the Magic totally have the easier road to the conference finals. The Bobcats and Hawks may have had better records than the Bulls and Celtics, respectively, but the Cavs are going against better teams. Period. On the flip side, the Magic are handling their business with ease. They are doing exactly what you expect a championship contender to do: roll through the teams that are not on your level. But, to be fair, the Cavs did the same against the Bulls (1 game does not a series make). Now they are playing a Boston team that has their wind back, and the Celtics are playing inspired defense again (which makes me worried for my Magic, as well as Bron Bron).
    I still expect the Cavs to take the series in 7. I just don’t see the Celtics holding homecourt. But the Cavs have a much more significant problem: everyone on their roster not wearing 23 takes the fourth quarter off. That’s what happened last year. That’s what I saw against the Bulls. James is good enough to beat the Bulls by himself (more or less), but maybe not the Celtics, and definitely not the Magic. He needs some serious contribution in the fourth quarter. Period.
    Oh and call me a homer. But the Magic have the deepest team in the league. Varejoa is rock solid and West can play when he’s on, but after that… place fillers. Z is too old to really contribute. Moon looks lost when he has to do something with the ball besides catch an alley-oop. And Hickson is young guy with a lot of upside… but right now, this year, he’s still just a “guy”. As Stan Van Gundy said during the regular season: “We’re not worried about JJ Hickson.”

  25. Bleed Green - May 5, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    Excuse me?! Don’t put the carriage before the horse, my dear. The C’s strategy is on course.

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