ORLANDO– “Almost need the perfect game to beat this team,” Woody said. If that’s true, “almost perfect” for the Hawks does not include things like a 15-point fourth quarter, allowing a 35-point third quarter when they had control of the game and getting scorched for 56 percent shooting.
– “We know we can play in this arena and we can play with these guys,” Smoove said. “We just have to establish ourselves. We have to look at the bright side. We played hard and we didn’t just let them roll over us.”
–The Hawks lost by 14 points despite being nearly perfect from the line, seeing only 39 minutes of Dwight Howard due to foul trouble and a bloody nose and holding the Magic to 17 points in a quarter. “You have to look at the positives,” Jamal said. “We came in their place and were down one entering the fourth quarter. That shows you we are right there.”
– I understand the Hawks have to maintain that positive state of mind but it’s little solace if they are actually trying to win this series. Is this the really the best they can do at Orlando? Take a lead at halftime, spit the bit in the fourth quarter and lose by double digits?
– “I think we are good enough to play with anyone in the league,” Al said. “We have to keep improving and build on how we played in the first half.”
– The Hawks were a model of offensive efficiency in the second quarter: 9 of 21 shooting, 10 of 10 free throws, six offensive rebounds for eight second-chance points and five assists. The first quarter was good, too. “I think we had more movement going around instead of keeping the ball on one side and playing isolation,” Al said. “We were moving the ball and just sharing it. When we play like that, we are at our best.”
– They didn’t play like that in the second half: 41 points, 12 of 33 shooting. J.J. and, to a lesser extent, Jamal were the culprits. The Magic are a good defensive team but the Hawks make it easier for them when the ball stays in one place.
– You had to figure Al would start making jumpers. When he does, it usually means the offense is flowing and Dwight is away from the basket, and both of those are good things. “Al Horford, it seemed like he didn’t miss any shots tonight,” Howard said. “I was upset that he was just on fire.”
– Bibby played just four minutes after halftime, none in the fourth quarter. Maybe having him out there would have improved the flow but, considering the way he defers to Joe, maybe not. Jamal had the Hawks playing faster. He went hard to the basket, too, getting six free-throw attempts.
– “Mike will be back in there Saturday ready to go,” Woody said. “That’s not my worry. It’s all about trying to win. I thought Jamal was playing pretty well but we just didn’t have that in the fourth quarter.”
– You know what you are going to get when Jamal is running the show. The shot distribution was out of wack in the second half: 11 for Jamal, 7 for J.J. and only 5 for Al. So were the minutes: only 5 for Zaza and 4 for Mo.
– VC, Jameer Nelson, Pietrus, and Rashard Lewis combined to make 27 of 51 shots. I still think the Magic just has too many good perimeter players and the Hawks have too many bad matchups out there. That’s something that needs to be addressed in the offseason.
– If the Hawks are going to take the “let Dwight get his” approach, they have to find a way to control all those shooters. Dwight got his and so did Rashard, VC and Jameer. No one is saying it’s easy to do both but that’s what it’s going to take for the Hawks to win this series. “The idea is to put pressure on them,” VC said. “You want to come in as many waves as possible.”
– The Hawks survived Dwight’s 18 points, 6 of 6 shooting and 6 of 9 free throws in the first quarter. He only had 10 over the final three yet the Magic still won going away. “We tried doubling him,” Woody said. “We tried playing him straight up. He got to the free-throw line quite a bit in the first half, but I don’t think that really hurt us. Their threes coming down the stretch were huge in terms of our rotation. We were slow there and they were able to knock down shots there.”
– The Hawks had a 57-49 lead at halftime and then almost immediately gave it back. They started the quarter by coming up empty on five consecutive possessions, including three turnovers. “We just fell apart to start the third quarter to give them momentum to get back in the game,” Woody said
– The Hawks didn’t let it get away from them at that point. The lead changed eight more times over the last nine minutes of the period, the last time on Nelson’s running, banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer. “I think we relaxed and that’s a big momentum shot for them going into the fourth quarter,” Woody said.
– The Hawks were down just 88-87 early in the third. Then the Magic ripped off runs of 10-0 and 9-0 as the Hawks missed 8 of their next 9 shots, including four in a row by Jamal. “We just didn’t have anything left in the fourth quarter,” Woody said.
– At least the Hawks didn’t stay down once they got down like they usually do on the road. “I think we realized that we had to play harder than what we did [in Game 1],” Al said. “We got away from our game plan in the first game and we learned from that and moved on. We tried to put a full game together tonight but just couldn’t do it. We just have to go home and handle our business and win at home.”
– I’m out, Hawks fans.