Quick Thought: Can't you feel the Hawks in 7? Do you see now why it couldn't go down in 5?
The Hawks were a step behind, a foot short, and couldn't ever catch up as the Magic found themselves in Game 5, scorching the Hawks in every which way.
I thought the Magic would go back inside to Howard, but instead they challenged the Hawks guards and big to defend the pick and roll well. The Hawks didn't.
The Magic kept at it, getting good looks off of those plays, daring the Hawks to stay at home on spot up shooters. The Hawks didn't.
Defensively, the Magic kept doing what they've been doing against the Hawks and dared the Hawks to keep making jump shots. The Hawks didn't.
The Hawks trailed 10-9 when Jason Collins and Kirk Hinrich left the game, their only crime being a single foul and being on the floor while Josh Smith and Al Horford couldn't drop it in a 30 foot wide bucket.
10 minutes and 21 seconds later, Hinrich returned after the Hawks were outscored 42-21 in his absence.
It was the kind of game we've seen time and time again from the Hawks. Get down early, stay down late. Having a 3-1 lead and a home game still in their pocket certainly had to enter the frame of mind, say what they want about wanting to close things out. They were never prepared for the Magic to defend their 2010-2011 season with such execution. No way.
Game 6 is indeed coming for Atlanta, but we've seen the home team take things for granted before. I am hopeful the team will come out and grab that extra step and jump that extra foot and close things out Thursday night.
But there is a reason I picked the Hawks in 7. That reason is the Hawks play their best when they have to, not when they can choose to. Larry Drew told me before the game that, to keep their edge, the Hawks had to play like they were the ones down 3-1. No way that got through to the team, or else they would be done for the season.
The Hawks are the better matchup. They cheated too much, sagged a lot, and generally dared the Magic to make open shots.
The Magic did.