Anytime I can goto SB Nation's Basketball page and see a picture of an Atlanta Hawks player shown in a positive manner is a great way to start the day. That said, several NBA writers have weighed in on last night's Hawks victory over the Magic. Lets start with SB Nation's Tom Ziller.
Dwight Howard was, as the headline says, solved by the Atlanta Hawks as the Orlando Magic fell to their Southeast rivals 85-82. Howard managed to total 17 points and 13 rebounds, but shot just 4-13 from the floor and played only 32 minutes due to foul trouble. The question is whether Howard was solved for just one night in March, or if Atlanta has a legitimate solution that can translate to the inevitable first-round NBA Playoffs series between the two, which will begin in two weeks.
None of this means the Hawks will prevail when these two teams renew acquaintances in two weeks. (Although neither team has technically clinched its position in the standings, a Hawks-Magic matchup is virtually assured). Orlando might shoot 3s more accurately, might figure out how to get Howard easier touches against Collins and, barring that, might still shut down the Hawks' sputtering offense enough to prevail anyway.
But unlike a year ago, we're looking at a genuinely competitive series. For that, you can thank the guy with three points and five rebounds.
Even Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had high praise for Collins although I will caution that these statements were no doubt made with the idea to motivate his team that he finds suddenly struggling once again. These quotes are from Michael Cunningham's recap blog post following the game.
"That’s the best defense I’ve seen all year on Dwight. He did a great job. Against Collins, [Howard] didn’t get a lot of good shots. I thought he did a great job on him. He’s big and physical. He doesn’t give you anything easy. Dwight had trouble getting good, on-balance shots."
High praise and deservedly so. Then Van Gundy added this little nugget that I am still not quite ready to buy.
"They're better than us right now," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "That's the bottom line."
Although I will concede that if it were not for Atlanta, Orlando would be the most inconsistent good team in the league.
I don't mean to rain on the parade here but personally I am proceeding with caution. It was great to win that game last night but I will feel better about it if the Hawks come out and provide that same type of effort on Friday night against the Celtics. We have seen teases like last night's performance in the past. I don't want to get fooled again.