ORLANDO – Remember these guys?
This is what you feared. Not a game, but a cartoon. Not a loss, but four quarters of exploding body parts.
For most of four playoff games against Orlando, we saw what the Hawks were capable of. Then we saw what we already knew they were capable of because they showed it all too often during their bipolar season.
Before the game was half over Tuesday night, the Hawks trailed by 10, then 15, then 25, and then everybody pretty much stopped paying attention. Now the doubt is back in Atlanta, and the hope is back in Orlando.
The final score was Magic 101, Hawks 76. It would’ve been worse if Orlando hadn’t put it in cruise control early.
The Hawks lost by 25, and Dwight Howard wasn’t even a factor. He scored eight points.
Remember these guys?
There’s only one positive if you’re the Hawks. It counts as only one loss. This remains a very winnable series. They lead it 3-2, and they can still wrap up this playoff series Thursday night at Philips Arena. That would be a good idea because winning a Game 7 back in Orlando generally doesn’t show up on the blueprint.
“Clearly we lost our composure,” coach Larry Drew said, referencing a 26-13 first-quarter deficit. “We did not play with the poise that I thought we would.”
The Hawks said all the right things before the game. They wanted to close out the series here. They wanted to play like the desperate team. They wanted to take the Orlando crowd out of it early. Then the game started, and they wound up eating those words.
“They were the hungrier team,” Jamal Crawford said. “If they lose, their summer starts tomorrow, and they played like it. We didn’t. We’re just lucky it’s not a round-robin tournament and the points don’t carry over.”
“I actually think we did come out a little desperate,” Al Horford said. “But we rushed things at the offensive end. We missed shots and they made shots, and then we could just never really get into a flow. That was it.”
The Hawks weren’t dominating the Magic at 3-1. But the fact Orlando led for only 42 minutes of the first 192 minutes of this series said something. Stan Van Gundy, the Magic coach, acknowledged he was out of ideas.
“We’ve played 29 different lineups,” he said before the game. “I’m not sure how many more possibilities there are.”
The Hawks didn’t play great at every moment in every game in the first four. But we saw how defensive intensity, effort and the occasional forearm shiver can go a long way in the postseason. It can make up for offensive liabilities. It certainly can prevent things like 41-point losses to New Orleans.
But the “Bad Hawks” returned. Orlando pushed the pace and shot better than at any point in the series. The Magic made 11 of 26 3-pointers (42.3 percent) after making 21 of 96 (21.9 percent) in the first four.
They made three of their first 14 shots, then they made 17 of 30 to close the first half and outscored the Hawks 48-26 to take a 58-35 lead.
The Hawks, conversely, were a mess on offense (36.2 percent). Joe Johnson’s night: 2-for-12 (five points). Crawford’s night: 2-for-8 (eight points). The team’s night from 3-point range: 4-for-16.
Something you never expected also happened: J.J. Redick changed the series. He made his first five shots. He started hitting — scoring 11 consecutive Orlando points at one point — and then everybody started hitting. Jason Richardson. Ryan Anderson. Even Hedo Turkoglu, who had been thrown under the bus during media sessions this series by both his coach and his general manager (Otis Smith).
After the win, Van Gundy was predictably cautious: “We did what we had to do, but all we did was cut the lead. It’s like we cut a 20-point lead to 12.”
But what kind of hangover will this leave in the Hawks’ locker room? They didn’t react well to the onslaught. They didn’t get hands in the faces of shooters. They couldn’t slow the pace and, consequently, were not as physical.
“I don’t expect any hangover,” Horford said. “We’ll go back to Atlanta, and Philips Arena will be rocking and we’ll try to close this out.”
They’re still in control. But as always, it depends which of the team’s personalities show up.
By Jeff Schultz
Earlier today: Digi-Blog previews Hawks and Magic, game 5
Earlier today: LIVE BLOG: Hawks try to close out Magic (honest)