The Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks will meet again on Friday night for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Magic were able to knot the series at a game a piece on Tuesday night with a 88-82 victory. In Game 1 on Saturday, Orlando was outworked and outplayed by what appeared to be a more physical, more athletic Atlanta Hawks’ team. Atlanta’s 103-93 victory in Game 1 was the fourth in five tries for the Hawks against the Magic this year. But Orlando’s play on Tuesday night may not have just evened the best-of-seven series for the Magic, but given Orlando a blue print on how to advance past the first round for a fourth straight year.
One noticeable difference between Games 1 and 2 was the hustle of the Magic. Orlando trailed 32-23 early in the second quarter and the crowd at Amway Center seemed to be non-existent. That’s when guard J.J. Redick stripped Atlanta’s Kirk Hinrich near mid-court and dove on the floor to secure it. Redick shoveled the ball to guard Jameer Nelson for an uncontested layup that cut the lead to seven and seemed to be the catalyst for a 12-2 Magic run that tied the game. Late in the fourth quarter, Nelson came up with a timely hustle play of his own. After a 10-0 Atlanta run cut Orlando’s lead to 78-76, the Magic appeared to be on the ropes and another turnover looked inevitable. But Nelson dove to the floor to secure a loose ball and prevent it from going out of bounds. Nelson tossed the ball to Dwight Howard and Orlando would cap the possession with a running layup by forward Hedo Turkoglu that extended the Orlando lead to four. Two hustle plays turned out to be a significant difference in what resulted in a highly contested Magic victory.
The next dramatic change from Game 1 was the Orlando defense and the turnovers. In Game 1, Orlando allowed 103 points; it was the first time in 17 playoff games in which Orlando allowed an opponent to reach the century mark. The Hawks shot 51 percent in the first game and six-for-14 from three-point-land. In Game 2, the Magic held Atlanta to below 40 percent from the field. The Hawks shot seven-for-20 from beyond the arc in Game 2 with three makes highly contested and from way beyond the three-point-line. There were few open perimeter shots for Atlanta as the Magic did a good job closing out on shooters, particularly on forward Al Horford who made a living on his mid-range jumper in Game 1. Orlando also came up with nine steals in Game 2 after just three in Game 1. The Magic committed nine more turnovers than the Hawks in the first game of the series giving it away 18 times and forcing just nine Atlanta turnovers. In Game 2, the Magic were still careless at times turning the ball over 16 times, but forced 15 Atlanta turnovers.
In Game 2, Orlando got far more contribution from the supporting cast. In Game 1, Dwight Howard scored 46 and guard Jameer Nelson added 27. The two combined for 73 of Orlando’s 93 with no other player scoring more than six. Howard was once again stellar in Game 2 with 33 points while Nelson scored 13. But Orlando’s supporting cast gave a much improved effort. Hedo Turkoglu added 10 points despite shooting a dismal four-for-16 from the field. Starters Jason Richardson and Brandon Bass both scored eight while reserve Ryan Anderson added eight points of his own. Still, the Magic will need a better effort from the supporting cast in Game 3. Jason Richardson has averaged just six points in the first two games of the series. Richardson averaged nearly 14 in his stint this season with Orlando and was averaging better than 19 for Phoenix prior to the trade. He and Turkoglu will need to be far more efficient offensively for Orlando to go deep into the playoffs. Reserve guards Gilbert Arenas and J.J. Redick could really give Orlando a boost if either were able to knock down open jump shots.