Magic/Hawks Game 2 Recap
Hawks show some pride, but fall 0-2.
by Nada Taha Moslehy
Vince Carter jumped up for a monstrous block and hustled down the other end of the court for a pull-up three.
At half court, Josh Smith bent over for a moment and had a look of defeat splashed across his face.
A few minutes later, after a couple more Hawks turnovers and Magic treys (they hit four in the final quarter), Atlanta called timeout and coach Mike Woodson shook his head in his hands.
You would think this was a scene from Game 1 where the Magic annihilated the Hawks by 43 points and held them to just 10 and 11 points in the third and fourth quarters. But it was the fourth quarter of Game 2 where the Hawks, who had just come off a strong start after the half and held the lead, just fell apart, losing to Orlando 112-98 and dropping 2-0 heading back home.
It actually looked like a game and not an embarrassment of sorts for the Hawks in the first half. Unlike Game 1, Atlanta was hitting their shots, defending (doubling) Howard in the post and playing like a team should in the second round of the Playoffs.
They even held an eight-point lead at one point in the game, but crumbled under pressure and under Howard’s 29 points and 17 rebounds.
“We had some good looks and I don’t know if fatigue set in or what, but we couldn’t make a shot, we couldn’t make stops,” Woodson said.
Even a bloody nose couldn’t stop Howard from having a massive game. He was accidentally hit by Atlanta’s Al Horford at the start of the third while laying the ball up. Leaving the court for a few minutes to tend to his injury, a blow to the momentum was anticipated. But Dwight’s bloody nose led to an 11-2 run that wiped out Atlanta’s previous nine-point lead.
“I’m human. It’s not like I’m built of metal,” Howard said. “They did to me like they did the Wolverine. I bleed. I break bones.”
I made a pseudo-wager with a fellow reporter who said the Magic would blow out Atlanta again (by 22 to be exact). I disagreed. And for most of the game, I was right. At the end of the first, Dwight was the only Magic player in double figures (he had an amazing 18-point quarter, by the way). Carter and Jameer Nelson were practically invisible and we in the media section were begging Matt Barnes to make it to 5 points.
But miss after miss, enraged Vince. He yelled profanities, he shook his head, he exploded. I took a double take at the box score and he all of a sudden had 24 points and 7 rebounds to finish the game. He sparked a 21-4 fourth-quarter run with an angry pound of the chest after hitting major shots.
Nelson drove to the basket, hit huge threes and facilitated for the rest of his team. He finished with 20 points and six assists to help the other two all-stars – Vince (24 points) and Rashard Lewis (20) — finish with 20-point games as well.
I sort of won my bet, considering Game 2 was somewhat of a chase for the lead – well, at least until Mickael Pietrus and the Magic dropped threes on Atlanta as if that’s the only way they knew how to score. Shot after shot went down, enflaming the crowd and deflating the Hawks, who have lost to their Southeast Division rival eight of the last nine times.
It was Nelson’s buzzer-beating three at the end of the third quarter following what the Hawks thought was a lead-capturing three by Jamal Crawford on the other end that began the snowball of crowd-pleasing shots and defensive stops that take the Magic to Atlanta for Game 3 Saturday as the only undefeated team in the post-season.
The Hawks did upgrade their game play, however. Horford (24), Josh Smith (18) and Joe Johnson (19) filled the stat sheet. But it was Woodson’s decision to sit starting point guard and veteran Mike Bibby — who finished with just 3 points — and play backup PG Jamal Crawford, that may have been the biggest boost for the Hawks.
Crawford finished with 23 points, four assists and four rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to snatch home court advantage from the Magic.
Woodson’s goal, he said, is to string together a near-perfect game: “Somehow we got to put four quarters together to beat this team.”
Now, the Hawks have to “Go home and win. We’ve been pretty good on our floor,” Woodson said. “They took care of their business on their home floor. We’re going to see what we’re made of.”