Quick Thought: All the warts were on display tonight. All of them. And the Hawks still won.
They were all there, in alarming number. All the things the Hawks fail to do, all the things the Hawks shouldn't do, all of the things that have cost them games time and time again were all over the Philips Arena floor tonight.
The Magic forced the Hawks into all of their bad habits and it's still 2-1, ATL.
Forget all the pregame soliloquies about how the Hawks gameplan has stunted the Orlando offense, especially from 3-point range. Oh sure, it was still effective, as while ORL made a better percentage of threes (8-28/29 percent vs 24 percent for the series and 22 percent for the season vs. ATL) it was still far below their average against everybody for the season (37 percent).
It came down to a couple more shots made for the Hawks, a couple of turnovers less, and one lucky stinking three pointer by the most amazing jump shot maker in ATL history.
I've often said that I would rather have Jamal Crawford trying some ridiculous circus jump shot from anywhere, anywhere on the floor, than a Josh Smith jump shot wide open from 15 feet. When the clock is ticking down, time after time Crawford flings the ball up to the hoop and good things happen.
And on a night where he scored his first playoff four point play, Crawford saved his most important frequent flyer jumper for the last, a jumper that was desperate at best, but a steel sword in the side of the Magic in Game 3.
With the clock winding down the games final moments, in a game where Orlando did more things right and exhibited their best scoring balance of the night, a game where Orlando tightened up the defense and had the Hawks tossing up lottery level attempts at the basket for most of the second half, Crawford isolated at the top of the key, some 26 feet away from the basket. Jameer Nelson slid under and put up a perfectly vertical arm, defending to a tee whatever Jamal was about to shoot. Crawford slightly double clutched his shot, let it go, and a hopeful, jam-packed Atlanta faithful watched as it banged off the glass and through the hoop, sealing a bumpy, scrambling win for the Hawks.
In a single three point bank shot, one could exhale the brutality of Josh Smith defiantly taking long jump shots. You can free yourself from litany of isolated, lean back, quick in the shot clock jumpers that Crawford and Joe Johnson took. You can shake your head with a smile when you think of how effective the Hawks were at getting in the lane in the first half, but stayed away like the lane had leprosy in the second.
It'a amazing how a win can make you feel, as I was pumping my fist, Tiger Woods style, when Crawford's prayer came careening through the net, although there were plenty of mistakes along the way.
Magic fans have to be asking, "Now what?" They played a much better basketball game than Atlanta in Game 3, and still lost. Really, they didn't lead much at all in the game---an amazing lack of achievement considering all the Hawks' gifts throughout the game and the Magic's own solid play.
Larry Drew gave Jamal Crawford a rest with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game and put Josh Smith back in, who promptly launched an ill-advised jump shot (redundant terms for Smoove) and a pass into the fabled third row. After two game minutes, Crawford was back in the game for Smoove.
We thought we had gotten past it, but the Hawks whiffed on three free throws with nobody in the lane. Crawford missed a key one later, and Joe Johnson flubbed both of his clear path free throws on the Hawks' way to getting zero points on that trip.
The Magic yanked Dwight Howard for the first time since Game 1, and the Hawks immediately made (4) baskets in the lane. Howard finished the game.
Funny part of Ric Bucher's halftime interview with Joe Johnson. Ric asked how the Hawks could tighten it up a little, given their great first half shooting and relatively small lead. Johnson answered that they could slow down the turnovers, but the Hawks had only two for the entire first half.
Sunday, Game 4 in the ATL. Are you believing it yet, Hawks fans?