Instant Reaction: Magic 93 , Hawks 89

Quick Thought: Close, and better, but not good enough.

Summary:

There was obvious improvement. Yes, the Magic finally missed a lot of three point shots in a game against Atlanta, but there was obvious improvement offensively and defensively there.

Still, the fact that Al Horford played 28 minutes of a game he was critical to have a chance in winning, and while ending the game with a mere (4) fouls calls for some extra explanation as well as his lack of usage down the stretch.

Horford was aggressive in taking the ball towards the hoop, overcoming previous bashfulness in the games against the Magic. Yet, in the fourth quarter, with even Matt Goukas calling the matchup between Horford and Gortat "a real serious problem for Marcin", Al didn't get a sniff of a play.

And therein lies the difference between an "offense" like the one Phoenix runs and the one the Hawks run. When there is a mismatch, there is no hierarchy, a guy like Channing Frye is going to get the ball. When Horford has a mismatch? Take a number, Al.

The motion offense was supposed to provide the ability to avoid a stagnating offense, especially late in games. But recently in the fourth quarter, the Hawks have scaled back their use of it., especially in this very winnable game against Orlando, by launching Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson, at times mind you, into an isolation set. There are enough playmakers to use the advantages of the motion offense, but it seems the Hawks aren't quite ready to trust it when the game is on the line.

Three Stars:

1. Al Horford

He was a beast. Criminally underused in this game. And even if he is the best perimeter player on the team, can we all agree to stop the gosh darn switching on defense? Asking Horford to guard Vince Carter at the end isn't as bad as asking him to guard a quick, HOF point guard the night before, but it doesn't excuse it either.

2. Joe Johnson

A very efficient game from Joe. One that we've likely seen hundreds of times from him. 23/5/4 with a single turnover.

3. Josh Smith

It's hard to give him the star because it was a classic uneven game from Smith, complete with a ton of jump shots. Still, 13/13/6 is a great stat line, but I hold my nose because it's often his poor defense and giving up on trying to work around a screen that causes some of the switching.

Also: 

The turnovers are starting to rear their ugly heads. The Magic scored 22 points off of turnovers and the Hawks posted another minus in that matchup again (17 to 10). Whatever gains are being made (and the Hawks outshot the Magic 47-43) are being undone by giving opponents like Orlando 10+ more shots than the Hawks take.

A rare exit question: Does this game validate that the Hawks are ready to contend against the bigger teams? 

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