Orlando– Afterward, the Hawks seemed caught somewhere between being satisfied with their effort and disappointed with their execution when things got tight at the end.
– Asked if there was any consolation in giving a competitive effort against the Magic under the circumstances (back-to-back, no Marvin or Mo, recent history), L.D. said: “None whatsoever.”
– But he later added: “They came in here and played with a lot of energy right off the bat and I am very proud of them for doing that.”
– The Hawks were primed from the jump and built a 21-8 lead. Smoove was the catalyst with seven points, four rebounds, two assists a steal and just one turnover. “We wanted to be able to show the Orlando Magic we can come in and make a game out of it and not just hand them the game,” he said.
– Things went awry when L.D. started sending in the reserves. After Josh Powell scored for a 23-10 lead, Atlanta’s possessions to end the first quarter went like this: Jamal miss, Jamal turnover, Zaza turnover, Jamal miss, Jamal missed free throw on Rashard Lewis tech, Zaza turnover, Teague turnover, Josh miss.
– Meanwhile, the Magic scored 11 straight points with VC working against Jamal and Gortat against Zaza. The Magic beat the Hawks to some loose balls during that stretch.
– “When I went to the bench, the energy level went down,” L.D. said. “We kind of lost focus. Offensively, we started trying to do it individually and defensively we didn’t play with as much physicality as our first unit. That got Orlando going.”
– This was another game where Atlanta’s offensive numbers looked pretty good but the game was close because of a glaring deficiency in one area. It was the turnovers again tonight: 17 for 22 Magic points. Orlando also converted a high percentage of its 11 offensive rebounds into points with 16.
– Just 19 points for the Hawks in the fourth quarter with 7 of 20 shooting. Al said the Hawks lacked organization. “It was taking us too long to get into our offensive sets,” he said. “So instead of getting into our plays at 16 or 17 [on the shot clock], we were doing it at 8. That was kind of putting ourselves in a jam.”
– VC had a classic VC game: Superb for stretches but shaky at the end. He left the Hawks an opening with two missed free throws but his driving basket against Horford on a switch was the difference. I couldn’t see the play from way, way up in my media perch and I missed the replay but some Tweeps said it was a bad call.
– “I watched him last night and Horford was switching everything,” Jason Williams said. “I was kind of surprised they waited that late to do it.”
– No need to switch with Jameer (ankle) out and Duhon in. J-Will finished for Orlando instead of Duhon.
– “I thought our execution of what the gameplan was was right on the money,” L.D. said. “We wanted to defend the three; I thought we did a good job of that. We wanted to defend Howard one-on-one; I thought we did a good job of that. We just didn’t make timely plays.”
– J.J. had another strong game. He had just one turnover, but it was critical: Dribbling across the lane with the Hawks leading 82-81, he lost the ball out of bounds. J-Will made a 3 after that and the Magic never trailed again as the Hawks missed three consecutive 3-pointers (Bibby, J.J. and, um, Josh).
– Twin did about the only thing he could with Dwight, which is to hold his ground and make Howard use his athleticism to score. Howard did so, going for 27 on 10 of 20 shooting and seven free throws. Etan and Zaza did their best, too, but Dwight couldn’t be denied despite foul trouble.
– “He’s a monster down there and seems like his post game has only gotten better,” Josh said. “That’s going to be hard top stop when he is doing that and making free throws at the same time.”
– It helped that the Hawks caught the Magic on a night when they missed a handful of open looks at the 3-point line (Bibby was particularly guilty of losing his man). “I thought tonight was a good win for us because we’re shooting the ball so poorly right now,” Stan Van Gundy said. “Our perimeter shooting has been abominable and we had to win just by fighting.”
– Still, several times in the fourth quarter the Hawks worked hard to scramble and find shooters, the kind of extended effort L.D. has been seeking. The Magic never really delivered the long stretches of perimeter daggers that usually do in the Hawks.
– At least the Hawks now believe they have a plan that can work against Orlando. “No question,” Al said. “I think now more than ever. It’s a new year. We are a different team. We feel confident. It was encouraging.”
– — “Definitely this is something we can build on,.” J.J. said. “We feel like we can honestly play with any team in this league. I think our coaching staff does a great job of preparing us and getting us ready for games.”
– I’m out, Hawks fans.