Skip to content

Game of the night: Orlando reminds Atlanta of the gap between the Hawks and the elite

Nov 9, 2010, 2:02 AM EST

Howard_Smith

Last season, Orlando swept Atlanta right out of the playoffs. Then this summer, both teams essentially went with the status quo.

So maybe we should not be surprised by Monday night’s outcome, a 93-89 Orlando victory. Except that the Hawks were off to a fast start, had a new coach, have been incorporating radical ideals like “off the ball movement” into their offense, so maybe this would be different. Maybe things had changed.

Nope. This game had just about everything the Hawks needed to beat the Magic — no Jameer Nelson, the Magic being cold from three, Atlanta off to a fast start, Vince Carter and Dwight Howard in foul trouble — and it was still the Magic.

The Hawks are still the Hawks — a good team a step or two behind the elite in the East. And pretty much locked in there. And the Magic are still in that elite.

As for this game, the Hawks got off to an early lead because they were getting points in transition. Not that the pace was fast but the Magic were not getting back in transition. As Dwight Howard was yelling at Vince Carter to do. It begs the question of why the Hawks don’t generally try to run more, why they are in the bottom 10 in the league in pace when they have so many athletes on the roster who can finish a break. But we’ve been asking that question for years.

As expected the pace ground down and Orlando caught up.

One big thing that was different from last playoffs — Atlanta chose not to double Howard on the block. They went with a lot of Jason Collins (who starts) and Zaza Pachulia (who should start and get more minutes than Collins because neither is all that great defensively but at least Pachulia can score a little). Howard finished with 27 on 50 percent shooting and 11 boards — an increase in points and rebounds over his season average, but down in shooting percentage.

But that one-on-one post play allowed the other Hawks to stay home on Magic three pointers, and the result was the Magic shot 18.2 percent from deep.

In a close game late, the Hawks are still the Hawks — a lot of Joe Johnson either coming off picks or in isolation. They have more movement in the offense, but under pressure they reverted to bad habits. The Magic are still the Magic — a lot of pick-and-roll, although with Nelson out it was a lot of Carter/Howard pick-and-roll.

Same as it ever was with the Hawks defending the pick-and-roll — they love to switch it. The Larry Drew Hawks may not switch everything as they used to, but they switch a lot. Late in the game that led to trouble — Josh Smith had already switched on to Vince Carter, so when Howard came out to set up the pick Orlando had a bunch of matchups they liked. Carter had the ball and now Al Horford on him and did what he should with that matchup and attacked off the high pick, got the bucket-and-one. That meant with15.5 second and Orlando’s two point lead became… well four points because he missed the free throw, but it became a two possession game and that was it.

This early in the season is too early to read anything into April and May in the NBA. But this game felt like last playoffs, when the Magic were just wholly superior to the Hawks. It’s hard to see how anything is really different now.

Latest Posts
  1. Craig Sager nearing TNT return after battle with leukemia

    Nov 27, 2014, 8:00 PM EST

    Nebraska v Baylor Getty Images

    Sager will receive clearance to fly in January.

  2. Kings coach calls DeMarcus Cousins NBA’s best big man

    Nov 27, 2014, 5:00 PM EST

    Michael Malone, DeMarcus Cousins Michael Malone, DeMarcus Cousins

    Michael Malone increases pressure on sometimes-combustible Cousins

  3. Hornets coach Steve Clifford: Lance Stephenson not a star

    Nov 27, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Clifford has benched Stephenson for consecutive fourth quarters

  4. Gerald Green goes dunk-for-dunk… with himself (video)

    Nov 27, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    Gerald Green, Timofey Mozgov, Alonzo Gee Gerald Green, Timofey Mozgov, Alonzo Gee

    Suns guard drives for reverse slam, cuts for monstrous alley-oop

  5. Report: Wizards willing to give Bradley Beal max contract extension if necessary

    Nov 27, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards

    Beal’s max extension projects to pay more than $118 million over five years

  6. PBT’s Wednesday NBA Winners/Losers: Ettore Messina making history for Spurs

    Nov 27, 2014, 1:37 AM EST

    Indiana Pacers v San Antonio Spurs Indiana Pacers v San Antonio Spurs

    LeBron James and the Cavaliers were good, Chase Budinger had the flub.

  7. Oklahoma City waives Sebastian Telfair

    Nov 27, 2014, 12:28 AM EST

    Utah Jazz v Oklahoma City Thunder Getty Images

    Ish Smith will stay on the roster.

  8. LeBron James, Cavaliers have kind of game they need to replicate blowing out Wizards

    Nov 27, 2014, 12:01 AM EST

    Dion Waiters, Kevin Seraphin, Rasual Butler Dion Waiters, Kevin Seraphin, Rasual Butler

    If the Cavs can defend like that on a regular basis they will be far more dangerous.

  9. Adam Silver on if league would do anything about Sixers: “Step in and do what?”

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:15 PM EST

    He also talks Milwaukee, doing away with conferences.

  10. Gregg Popovich to miss game following ‘minor medical procedure’

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:15 PM EST

    Gregg Popovich Gregg Popovich

    With Popovich out, Ettore Messina takes over Spurs

  11. James Harden throws pass through Amar’e Stoudemire’s legs (video)

    Nov 26, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

    New York Knicks v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Harden shifts defensive-woes attention onto Knicks forward

Featured video

Could Sixers be worst team in NBA history?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (8002)
  2. D. Wade (6632)
  3. K. Durant (6315)
  4. D. Howard (6275)
  5. T. Jones (5106)
  1. T. Harris (4979)
  2. P. Gasol (4885)
  3. R. Westbrook (4863)
  4. T. Gibson (4836)
  5. K. Martin (4822)