ORLANDO — Funny moment at a local restaurant and watering hole that Michael Cunningham and I visited Monday night. It was trivia night, and one of the players named their team, “Tomorrow is Dwight’s Last Home Game.”
And you thought you were cynical about the Hawks. How bad is it when an Orlando Magic fan not only assumes the Hawks — your Hawks! — would sweep this playoff series, but that Dwight Howard will try to force a trade out of town before the next NBA season? (Howard can opt out of his contract after one more season.)
Hawks players expect Orlando will come out desperate tonight. The question is: How do the Hawks respond? No predictions here. As has been stated repeatedly, this has been a strange season where logic seldom applies. But imagine the euphoria surrounding this team if it sweeps two in Orlando.
Here are a few subplots going into the game:
♦ Heavyweights: Howard vs. Collins: Comments from Hawks center Jason Collins that Dwight Howard is “going to get hit” every time he runs into the lane or in transition was just one more thing to get under his skin and irritate Stan Van Gundy. Both struggled to hold their tongue on the comments and the Hawks’ tactics following their shoot-around, as you can read by clicking here.
Of course, this all comes a day after Howard’s comments that he hates losing, adding with seeming disdain, “especially to the Hawks,” as Hoops Cunningham reported here. (FYI, one lineup change tonight: Hilton Armstrong is active and Etan Thomas is out.)
♦ Time off: I’m not a fan of two days off after one game, especially with no travel needed. I think most fans agree. But Hawks coach Larry Drew actually welcomed having the last two days off for his banged up team. (FYI: Josh Smith says his sore elbow is fine.)
“Certainly with our club the two days off helps because it allowed some of our guys to mend,” Drew said before the morning practice. “We’ve got some guys who are nicked up, banged up, bruised. It allows them to take an extra day to heal. For the psyche, particularly after winning game one, it does us some good. It gives us more time to reflect on the game, taking more time to break down and study the film. I just think for my team in particular, the two days off really does us some good.”
♦ Adjustments: Few would’ve expected that Orlando, not the Hawks, would be scrambling for answers after one game, but MC breaks it down here. One key tonight is whether Jason Richardson can do a better job defending Joe Johnson (who led the Hawks with 25 points in game one). The Hawks also expect Orlando to try to get Hedo Turkoglu (2 for 9 with only six points in the opener) more involved in the offense.
Van Gundy also believes just cutting down on turnovers would make a difference. Orlando had 18 the other night (the Hawks only nine), and that includes four three-second calls on Howard.
By Jeff Schultz
Last few Hawks blogs