It's a well used, okay, overused phrase: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The Atlanta Hawks came home facing an 0-2 deficit to a team that went to the NBA Finals last year and had handled the Hawks in five of the six games the two teams had played this season.
Instead of fixing the problems that have haunted the team all season long and especially in this series, the Hawks came out and tried the same old thing with the same old effort. Did the result change? No.
The Orlando Magic easily stole the home court advantage away from the Hawks by doing the same things they've done all season, despite any level of the competition: They worked hard, moved the basketball, played good defense, and never let up on their opposition. Their result? A 105-75 win in Philips Arena and an almost unassailable 3-0 lead in the best of seven series.
Categories and breakdown after the jump:
The Hawks promised more energy, renewed enthusiasm, and better play. They delivered none of it. Mike Woodson took issue with all of us non-coaches who looked puzzled at the work of Josh Smith in Game Two. Woodson is going to have to do a lot of defending to reconcile this Game Three beating----and it won't stop with defending his players.
Game Over When: Josh Smith promised hustle and effort coming into the game. In a scant (94) seconds, Smith had broken his promise. Rashard Lewis shot a three-pointer while Smith defended. The shot missed and careened towards Lewis and Smith. Smith, at best, watched as Lewis got the rebound despite being the same distance from Smith when the ball approached. Then Lewis saw that Smith had not taken any kind of defensive position now that Lewis had re-claimed possession and drove to the basket. Smith stood, astonished that Al Horford had not switched to cover Lewis, even though Horford was already covering his own man. Again, Smith had been standing right next to Lewis. Lewis laid in the hoop and told every Hawk fan what they needed to know: Nothing was going to change in Game Three.
Worth Noting: The Hawks are on their way to becoming a footnote in NBA Playoff Series History as they are losing per game so much as to rank in the Top 3 blown out opponents.
Also: (9) assists total in the game for the Hawks. Miserable.
We Saw It:
We saw Joe Johnson rendered ineffective by Orlando to the sad song of 3-15 shooting, 2 assists, 2 turnover, 8 points total. There will be an avalanche of data, I'm sure, that will break down why after this series is over, but Orlando is simply too good a team to try and isolate and score against so it was tough sledding for Mr. Johnson tonight.
The Hawks played defense like they were try to solve calculus on the court. The Magic ran the Hawks into circles, literally in the case of Smith at times, and the result was some wide open shots for the deadly Magic shooters. Consider: The Magic were comfortably ahead in the first half and neither Vince Carter or Dwight Howard had made more than a single bucket yet.
We pretty sure that Rashard Lewis can make a three pointer (psst, he's 7th all time), so we're curious why he was open and not closed out on so many times. Lewis made 4-7 on three thanks in part to some hesitant defending on behalf of the Hawks. Our favorite was a play where the ball moved to the top of the key, then over to the left where Lewis was wide open. Surprised, I think, he moved the ball into the corner, who quickly moved it back to Lewis, who was still open(!). Lewis overcame his charity towards Atlanta and buried the open look.
Not a single blocked shot for the Hawks--and honestly, I can't remember them even coming close.
Jamal Crawford made some of those shots he missed in Game Two in the fourth quarter, but his (22) points didn't even make a dent into the Magic lead and his defense was on par with the rest of the team's effort on the night, meaning the Magic made him look foolish, too.
We Can't Believe We Saw It:
We really believed the Hawks would come home and take care of what they surely knew was the end of their season if they lost. We thought we would see the desperation and determination we have seen from this team in spots throughout the year. Instead, what we saw was a flat team who looked beaten from the jump ball. There was no fight, no rallies, and no reason for the Philips Arena crowd to try to inspire the team to come back. How can they when the team they are pulling for show so little resistance to the battle being waged?
(Easy Shot Alert!) If the team was as serious about playing team basketball on both ends as earnestly as they dispute the officiating, they may have been able to do the things necessary to compete in this series. (What exactly does that "speaking your peace with the referees" get for your effort as compared to, say, forgetting about it and getting down the court?)
What we couldn't believe was that the effort would be so bad, the result would be so one-sided, the body language so bad that the Philips Arena crowd would see fit to boo hard and boo early. This is a team that has lit it up inside "The Highlight Factory", with a home record that equaled Orlando's, but they couldn't even energize a single candle with their display in Game Three. This is not a crowd that boos Santa Claus, so for them to boo is to feel the frustration of watching a team with so much potential and so much to play for, look as if it doesn't matter. There was a "we are who we are" tone to the Hawks' approach in Game Three, and what they were was both put aside by their Floridian guests, and voted down hard by their fans.