At first glance this appears to have been a game between one team that is clearly ready for the season to start while the other one still has some rust to shake off. However, when you say that the two teams are the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks it just feels like last year all over again. Perhaps that is a fair assumption and perhaps it isn't. One could draw from this game that no matter what changes the Hawks have made during the off season, that they won't be enough or maybe you will consider that this has been an injury filled pre-season that has hampered the Hawks ability to mesh.
Whatever your assumption might be, the facts are that the Hawks once again got beat down by the Magic. Consider that the Magic shot 53% for the game and 47% from three point range while the Hawks could only muster 31% shooting from the field and a paltry 19% from deep. The Magic used their size and strength to out muscle the Hawks on the boards by a 50-33 margin. Also consider that the Magic's two back up power forwards in Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson combined to score 28 points on 10-18 shooting and it will have you wondering if the Hawks have any sort of answer for the Magic at this juncture.
As much as the Magic are a terrible match up for the Hawks, there seems to be some sort of mental thing there as well that is working against the Hawks. In Michael Cunningham's recap after the game, Hawks forward Josh Smith had this to say about the Magic:
"I don’t seem them fearing us at all,"Josh said. "That means we have to go back to the lab."
That is true, the Magic don't fear the Hawks at all and really why should they? In fact it appears to be the Hawks that fear the Magic. Even as good as this moment felt, it is but a blip on the radar when comparing these two teams to each other.
This game closely resembled last season's playoffs. The Hawks competed early yet could not hit a shot. They started 1-10 yet only trailed by ten at halftime. Many times the team played pretty good defense and a few times the Magic were still able to score. That is when the bad match-ups really show up in the form of Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, and not to mention Dwight Howard. Predictably the Magic went on a run in the third quarter (35-18) that ultimately put the Hawks away. Fact is that it almost feels that the Hawks have to play a perfect game against the Magic to even have a chance and even if they were to accomplish that it seems that the Magic would still have the opportunity to pull it out.
Fortunately it is still the pre-season and such losses are a lot more easily forgotten than they will be once the season starts. Still at some point the Hawks are going to have to discover a remedy to the mental hurdle that is the Magic if they truly think they can compete with the Eastern Conference's elite. I'm not sure of the answer but a good place to start would be competing for the full 48 minutes. Perhaps we will see that once the regular season starts.
Box Score Ugliness:
- In 28 minutes of action Marvin Williams scored five points while going 1-10 from the field. He did come up with three steals but the Hawks need him to be aggressive and look for his shot as he passed on too many early in the game.
- Josh Smith scored eight points and grabbed seven boards for the night on 3-9 shooting. I don't want to sound like I am beating on Josh this early in the season but once again there were a lot of long jumpers and loafing back in transition defense.
- Al Horford couldn't get on track due to foul trouble. He only played 14 minutes in the game going 2-7 from the field and grabbing three rebounds.
- Lets hope that the rest of the league doesn't figure out what the Magic have on Joe Johnson. Eleven points on 3-10 (0-5 from deep) looks a lot like last year's playoff series. Johnson did come up with six rebounds and four assists to lead the team.
- Jamal Crawford had a woeful shooting night going 2-11 and scoring six points.
- Josh Powell led the team in scoring with 13 points (4-6 FG 5-5 FT)
- Equally impressive was Jason Collins' seven points (1-2 FG 5-7 FT)