Before Game 1 a hack asked Stan Van Gundy if he were concerned that, other than Dwight, the Magic don’t have anyone who gets to free-throw line very much.
First Van Gundy pointed out that the Hawks “don’t really have anybody that gets to the line a lot.” Then he said the “bottom line is we get to the line a lot as a team” because of Dwight. (Notice how pretty much every single thing the Magic do well is either directly or indirectly related to Dwight?)
As for the other Magic players, Van Gundy said they’ve never gotten to the line throughout their careers so why expect them to do it now? “If you want to do that then I guess you get different guys,” he said.
That brings us to what they Hawks say is their checklist for Game 3:
1. Attack the basket.
2. Run often and efficiently to get the crowd into it and tire our Dwight.
3. Keep the Magic off the glass.
4. Move the ball to keep the offense flowing and the defense shifting.
Looking at that list, No. 4 is the only thing the Hawks have been consistently good at for long stretches of the season. They haven’t done any of the other three well because they don’t have many players who are good at those things.
As Van Gundy says: If you want that, then get different guys. The Hawks are who they are.
Not that they don’t have their moments.
In Game 1 the Hawks got to the line, scored in the mid range if not at the basket and were pretty good on the boards considering Orlando ranks fourth in rebounding margin (mostly because of . . . well, you know). The Hawks also ran the break OK in Game 1–11 points on 11 plays, according to Synergy Sports Technology. That’s just about at their season averages of 11.6 plays per game and 1.16 points per possession.
Then the Magic adjusted their tactics, turned up their tenacity and the Hawks’ offense reverted back to the Hawks Offense: jump shots without much of a Plan B. The Hawks didn’t get to the line and were pummeled on the boards. They also ran less and were worse when they did (four points on six chances).
Can the Hawks overcome their nature and check off more than one or two items on their list for Game 3? L.D. thinks they are better running at home, and I can buy that. If Al plays more than 27 minutes that should help with the rebounding (and their jump-shot efficiency if he gets his touches).
Marking off the rest of that list will mean the Hawks have to be good at some things they usually aren’t.
The Hawks, for instance, favor jump shots even when the three-time DPOY isn’t waiting in the paint.
“We have just got to get back to attacking the basket and not just settling for jump shots,” Drew said, hopeful that the Game 1 tactic can become a habit and not stand as an aberration.
L.D.’s message to players after practice was “swing and attack” when the Magic send double teams. That’s mostly on J.J., who by now recognizes when and where the pressure will come from. He either needs to make a quick move before the doubles arrive or, as he says, “accept the double teams” and quickly reverse the ball.
“We have got a lot of misdirection stuff,” J.J. said. “At the same time [Dwight] is so athletic and big he is able to guard a lot of ground. We understand that and we have just got to try to make it difficult for him.”
The Hawks have the athletes to run. They have to rebound to do it. It’s one thing for Dwight or even Ryan Anderson to get boards, another for the Hawks to let Jameer and J-Rich overcome their nature and combine for 14 in Game 2. Maybe the Hawks are right when they say they didn’t block out at all and can rebound better by simply doing so.
“It’s got to be a team effort because it isn’t just Dwight,” Twin said. “They are sending everybody. Sometimes it is even Jameer getting offensive rebounds. They are sending everybody to the glass. That is great for us because as soon as we get that ball their transition defense won’t be set. We will have more opportunities to get out on the break but starts with securing the rebound.”
And doing that means the Hawks have to find a way to overcome their nature.
Fans and Philips
More from the Hawks on this topic . . .
“There are times when fans cheer for the other team and it feels more like a road game,” L.D. said. “Maybe that has something to do with [the home struggles], I don’t know. Maybe our guys don’t respond to those things very well. I am hoping that is not the case. I am hoping we are farther along in our maturity.”
“I think, in all honesty, some of the guys feel like we have reached that point where we are a good team but we are still not getting that support that we need,” Al said. “And I can understand that can be frustrating but I know there are some loyal Hawks fans who come out and support us. Now we have an opportunity to make something special happen here and we need them to come out Friday night.”
“It’s kind of hard to get ourselves revved up [for small crowds],” Smoove said. “But we are all professional athletes. We know what we need to do to win games. We understand this is a popular city and very alive. It’s kind of like Hollywood in a sense because people like to get to the games a little late. But that’s OK; as long as they come. Nothing we’ve faced this year is any different than in the past.”
Al was able to run at practice Thursday. He will wear kneepads in Game 3: “I’ve going to have to bring out the Pat Ewings. I don’t want to. That’s not my look but I’ve got to do it.” Al also took a look at the Game 2 tape and decided that maybe L.D. should let him play with two fouls in the second quarter after all.
Smoove said the shoulder is still sore. His sleeping habits aren’t helping: “I’m a wild sleeper and I might wake up on my left side. I have got to not put a lot of pressure on it.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat