LIVE: Hawks open playoffs against Magic, try to quiet critics

Joe Johnson is one of Hawks' playoff keys (whether he wants to admit it or not).

Joe Johnson (left) is one of Hawks' playoff keys -- whether he wants to admit it or not.

ORLANDO — Welcome to the NBA playoffs. Trying to project how long the Hawks stay here is sort of like guessing which direction a ping-pong ball will fly in a wind tunnel.

They started the season with six straight wins and ended the season with six straight losses. In between, they defeated tonight’s playoff opponent, Orlando, three out of four times. They also defeated the likes of Chicago and Boston. But they also lost nine games by at least 21 points (five of those games at home).

The Magic are not a great team. They are certainly beatable. But the Hawks have excelled at folding and beating themselves often this season. So flip a coin.

Here are a few obvious keys:

♦ Toughness (physical and mentally): The Hawks will go with their “big” lineup, which means Jason Collins at center, Al Horford and Josh Smith sliding down to power forward and small forward, respectively, and Marvin Williams on the bench. Coach Larry Drew will rotate Collins, Zaza Pachulia and Horford (and possibly others) against Magic center Dwight Howard, hoping to wear him down. As previously noted, the Hawks need to play physical. But just as important they can’t wilt mentally like they did so often during the regular season when things got difficult.

Joe Johnson:  Notwithstanding his curious comments to our Michael Cunningham — “I don’t get all of the glory when we win, so I don’t get to take all the [blame] when we lose” — Johnson needs to come up big in this series. If he can hit his jumper, something he hasn’t done enough of this year, it opens up things significantly for Horford and Josh Smith.

♦ Smith: He should have an advantage at the offensive end going against the Magic’s Hedo Turkoglu, who is not a great inside defender or rebounder. That means Smith can’t settle for the long-rang jumper, as he has done too often this season.

We’ve seen this team play some great games this season and we’ve seen some major flops. So you’ll go no predictions in this corner. But yes, this is a winnable series.

That’s all for now. Turning if over to you. We’ll live blog starting at tip-off.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

230 comments Add your comment

Section 303

April 16th, 2011
5:17 pm

I like the Hawks tonight. Going with a 95-90 victory!

Section 303

April 16th, 2011
5:20 pm

Joe has got to perform. I roll my eyes whenever he speaks, but whatever….he can say what he wants, as long as he plays like an All Star this series.

Hawks just have to keep the Magic 3-point shooters in check. If they can do that, they win. And, it wouldn’t hurt to have the officials let Twin, Zaza, and Eton Thomas play. Last year’s Game 2 (the one the Hawks sorta tried in) was criminal. Twin took two clear charges on Howard that were called personnals on Twin. I still say, had Howard gone out of that game early, the Hawks would have won Game 2 last year.

Section 303

April 16th, 2011
5:21 pm

Oh….First! And, Second!

BG-Balla Homey

April 16th, 2011
5:24 pm

Joe’s gotta show up and score 25.

juice sourcer

April 16th, 2011
5:29 pm

Here is what Rick Riley at ESPN had to say about the Hawks as he was making his predictions on the playoffs.

“Atlanta is the quittingest team in the league.”

Peter in MN

April 16th, 2011
5:29 pm

Well you’re far too old for Disney World and most of the eateries there are subpar so my question is why are you there. If there’s a dirty job to be done…send somebody else. The Hawks have regressed and are again matched a team that “Manson-ed” them last year. As you well know playoff bb features a much tougher style of play than during the regular season. I ask all, are the Hawks a “tough” team?

Section 303

April 16th, 2011
5:31 pm

juice sourcer, it doesn’t matter anymore. I hated every minute of the games they quit. But, doesn’t matter right now. We’re 0 and 0. And, have a chance to give a lot of people a “nice big sh#t burger to eat”. As my all time favorite movie manager Lou Brown says.

KrishATL

April 16th, 2011
5:31 pm

Really think we need a win right off the bat in this 1st game. With the fragile persona this team carries, a loss in the 1st game pretty much guarantees a series loss. But as many have pointed out, there are absolutely no guarantees with this team.
On a side note, I noticed in another article that the Hawks’ most efficient team is with Teague at PG and with the rest of the usual starters. While i dont mean we throw Teague out there as a starter, I really do hope Coach Drew has the common sense to give him some substantial minutes.
Only time will tell, but we are matched up against the “right” team for us. The Magic are more vulnerable than the rest of the top 4 in the East (with perhaps the exception of the Celtics), and now seem a cocky about their chances…hopefully, we’ll catch them in a daze of over-confidence.

GO HAWKS…make your fans proud. and if you dont care about your fans (ahem…Joe Johnson), then play for yourself and prove others wrong that u have some heart to go with talent.

Game 1 prediction: UGLY game…we start off a little strong, and then becomes a battle. Zaza annoys the crap of Howard, Crawford hits some timely shots, JJ does just enough to stay respectable for his salary, and we eeeeek out a WIN: 86-84. If we don’t win close, then we lose bad…nothing in between. worst case scenario is a nightmarish yet common 102-74 LOSS.

LETS GO HAWKS!!!

BG-Balla Homey

April 16th, 2011
5:38 pm

Need to get D.Howard into early fould trouble. Drive the lane and post up Howard a lot !

Jack Off In Wyoming

April 16th, 2011
5:39 pm

Play Marvin a lot so he can score 4 points !!! Lol.

Zach Irwin

April 16th, 2011
5:42 pm

Here’s hoping for a great start for the Hawks in this series.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 16th, 2011
6:05 pm

I hope they win, but I don’t think they will. Hope they prove me wrong. Go Hawks.

Buddy Grizzard

April 16th, 2011
6:10 pm

Aight people I’m at Phillips Taco Mac… post if you’re here.

tom

April 16th, 2011
6:15 pm

IF hawks can take game 1 in orlando i think they can win the series. Go HAWKS!

O'Brien

April 16th, 2011
6:17 pm

Pacers hung in there against the #1 seed Bulls, Philly had a double digit lead against Miami, and they would not quit.

The Hawks are mentally weak, so it is important that they play well in game 1 (even if we lose). If the Hawks get blown out in game 1, then I think it will be a short series, because they start to question themselves.

Section 303,

I’m thinking Orlando wins the first game 90-83. But I think Hawks win the series.

hawkfan

April 16th, 2011
6:21 pm

every playoff game has been close, will the hawks keep up or change that pattern…

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
6:54 pm

Juice Sourcer: ““Atlanta is the quittingest team in the league.” … If you go by statistics this year, he’s probably right.

O'Brien

April 16th, 2011
6:58 pm

Jeff,

Whats your prediction for this series?

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:00 pm

O’Brien — Not making a prediction.

Hot sauce

April 16th, 2011
7:02 pm

Glad Hubie is working this game so he can explain to Michael Gearon what is wrong with this team

O'Brien

April 16th, 2011
7:06 pm

Jeff,

Thanks for the response. I know there is a Mark Bradley jinx, so I was wondering if there was a Jeff Schultz jinx as well.

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:07 pm

Off the subject: They have a huge four-tier scoreboard here. and it’s loud. pyrotechnics. Very Disney-fied, not surprisingly.

Coach D.

April 16th, 2011
7:08 pm

Why am I even tuning in to this??? I think I’m a glutton for punishment & I also hope that I’m wrong! Go Hawks!

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:10 pm

Did ESPN’s Heather Cox mean to wear a dress that matches the Magic uniforms?

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:13 pm

Joe hits first shot. Good sign.

J.J.M.

April 16th, 2011
7:14 pm

come on hawks

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:15 pm

Howard went right at Collins with no problem.

J.J.M.

April 16th, 2011
7:16 pm

man what is josh doing

O'Brien

April 16th, 2011
7:16 pm

Collins did not need to swipe at the ball. All he had to do was stay straight up.

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:16 pm

Consecutive passes to nowhere down the court by Josh and then Heinrich.

J.J.M.

April 16th, 2011
7:17 pm

turnovers will kill us

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:19 pm

Magic 2 for 11 unofficially.

Hot sauce

April 16th, 2011
7:19 pm

Good D so far.

LC

April 16th, 2011
7:21 pm

Schultz can’t even spell “Hinrich” correctly and we’re supposed to take him seriously.

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:22 pm

Dwight Howard hit Orlando’s first shot so basically Magic are 1-for-10 since. (I was a math major).

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:22 pm

LC — Dude, seriously? In commenting you’re going to call me out for a typo? Go away.

LC

April 16th, 2011
7:22 pm

I like the way we’ve started though. Especially since Joe is hitting his shots. However, with this team, one bad stretch can basically end the entire game for them.

J.J.M.

April 16th, 2011
7:24 pm

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:24 pm

Those last two shots were by HINRICH. (Hah! How’s that LC?.. Just kidding. I’m overi)

J.J.M.

April 16th, 2011
7:25 pm

wooooooooow no offense foul?

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:25 pm

Two fouls on Collins, who’s talking to ref. Let’s see how long Drew keeps him in …. Never mind, here comes Zaza.

Hot sauce

April 16th, 2011
7:25 pm

What is Twin smiling about?

rodmann

April 16th, 2011
7:25 pm

Hawks will win the series 4-2. Josh Smith will look like the Allstar that he really is.

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:26 pm

Josh misses from Tampa.

J.J.M.

April 16th, 2011
7:26 pm

lol sy in a suit when hes not even hurt

LC

April 16th, 2011
7:26 pm

Relax! Didn’t mean for it to come off as a pot shot. I’ll refrain from making spelling corrections. As Smith takes another terrible shot.

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:26 pm

Now THAT’s what I’m talking about. Josh gets knocked down but goes inside.

LC

April 16th, 2011
7:28 pm

Were you able to listen to Drew’s pregame talk JS? He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that is very good at rallying the troops.

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:28 pm

Dwight misses two footer as crowd chants MVP . . . . oops.

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2011
7:29 pm

Not that time … and now Zaza has 2 fouls.