Dwight Howard was a man possessed. He scored 31 points in the first half in game one against the Atlanta Hawks, finishing the game with 46 points and 19 rebounds. By that count, you’d probably guess the Magic won by 10+ points. You’d be wrong.
Howard and Jameer Nelson were really the only players on the Magic that showed up for this game, as no one else on the team even scored in double figures.
Why the Magic Will Win
I don’t know if Dwight Howard will put up 46 and 19 again, but I don’t doubt his ability or determination to do so. I said before this series started that the Hawks have zero answer for Howard inside, and that remains the case. True, going into Howard all day actually back-fired in a sense, but I don’t think the game-plan is what didn’t work out. It’s the fact that the rest of the Orlando players (outside of Nelson) sat around like spectators as Howard went to work.
This team needs to get back to their basics. Howard is their life blood on offense, so they can’t go away from that. But the defensive intensity has to get back to where it was in the beginning of the year, and how it was during their playoff run to the Finals a few years back. They have to raise that defensive level of play, and then simply knock down open shots.
I think having J.J. Redick back for game two and being a little more comfortable after getting game one out of the way helps the team, as well. Redick isn’t a huge play-maker, but his presence changes the flow of the offensive in a positive manner, and he’s actually one of Orlando’s better and more focused defenders.
Ultimately, the Magic need to stick to their game-plan and simply execute better against an inferior team, and they should get back on track.
Why the Hawks Will Win
Outside of getting absolutely slapped around by Dwight Howard in game one, the Hawks played pretty solid defense, closing out on shooters and forcing ill-advised shots. Atlanta needs to do what Orlando really needs to do, and that’s keep up the defensive intensity.
The big thing for the Hawks is having no fear when they’re working the ball inside. Al Horford needs to play strong, while Joe Johnson and Josh Smith have to keep attacking the paint. Kirk Hinrich’s defense on Jameer Nelson can be a lot better, and if he can get back to his defensive game, it’ll make it difficult for Orlando to get into a rhythm offensively.
Atlanta’s apparent game-plan of letting Howard go to work and leaving the other Orlando shooters out to dry worked in game one, so a similar plan is in order if the Hawks want to take it, 2-0. It’s all about execution, and it won’t be easy to do for the second straight time in Orlando.
The Hawks really lucked out when no one other than Howard or Nelson were contributing on offense for the Magic. The Hawks will bring the intensity, but the Magic are going to have their shots back for game two. They’re too good of an offensive team to be locked down like that at home twice in a row. Look for the Magic to respond with a big win.
Magic 116, Hawks 94