The Difference (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Atlanta takes a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Magic with an 88-85 win in Game 4 at Philips Arena. The Hawks built an early advantage thanks to some Dwight Howard foul trouble and some hot shooting. Down the stretch they had to hold on to survive a Gilbert Arenas transformation back into Agent zero as well as themselves.
What can really be said about this Hawks team? Name another team that can look so good one minute and then terrible again the next. Each game is a roller coaster ride of sorts, with the Hawks doing enough good things to build a lead only to stump their own toe while allowing the opposition back into the game. In Game 4 we were reminded countless times from the TNT broadcast and studio crew that Atlanta is it's own enemy when it comes to shot selection. That is something that as fans who watch this team night in and night out, we have grown accustomed to and just accept.
Jamal Crawford struggled through the regular season but once again looks like Jamal Crawford from last season in the playoffs. He still can't play a lot of defense and he still takes some bad shots, but he is capable of making them and when he does so at a high rate it gives Atlanta a boost from its bench that it hasn't been able to count on nightly this season. Crawford scored 25 points with six assists while going 10-18 from the field. Every time Orlando made a run, it was Crawford that had the answer.
Atlanta's starting back court was also big as Joe Johnson and Kirk Hinrich combined for 34 points. Johnson scored 20 points and had nine rebounds. He was 7-8 from the free throw line including 6-6 coming down the stretch. Hinrich finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists. However great Hinrich's offensive contributions, his defense was most valuable to the Hawks. It was Hinrich that was most responsible for Jameer Nelson's six points on 3-12 shooting. Also consider that it was Hinrich who played 42 minutes in this game while Johnson and Crawford played 33 minutes each.
Atlanta got an early boost when Dwight Howard picked up two personals and had to spend the last five minutes of the first quarter on the bench. With Zaza Pachulia suspended, Atlanta went with Josh Powell and Hilton Armstrong as back ups to Jason Collins with Al Horford also getting some time on Howard. Powell benefited from Howard's foul trouble as the center had to be careful not to pick up another. Powell almost had Howard's third foul with around nine minutes to go in the second as the center bit on a Powell pump fake but the Hawks forward failed to draw contact with Howard helpless in the air.
It probably shouldn't have come down to it but Al Horford made one of the biggest plays for the Hawks when he knocked the ball away from Hedo Turkoglu late as the Magic were setting up a game tying three point attempt in the final moments. The Hawks survived a barrage from Gilbert Arenas who came off the bench to score 20 points in 22 minutes while single handedly keeping the Magic close.
Atlanta takes a 3-1 lead back to Orlando for Game 5 now with a chance to close the series out. Despite their questionable at times offensive methods, Atlanta has made it work and their single cover Dwight Howard philosophy has caused the Magic major problems with the supporting cast. For the Hawks, Game 5 is pretty straight forward. Just keep doing what you are doing and try and be a little more selective on offense.