Magic/Hawks Game 4 Recap
Was this Joe Johnson’s last game as a Hawk?
With Orlando coming into Monday night’s game with a 3-0 series lead over Atlanta, it wasn’t a matter of “if” the Magic would move on, it was a matter of “when.” When it comes to Hawks SG Joe Johnson, we know the “when”—he’ll be a free agent this June—but we don’t know if he’ll be back with Atlanta next year.
With that question looming over the Hawks (especially after Johnson’s Game 3 comments), Game 4 took on added importance for the home crowd.
Johnson may not be the only Hawk bidding the ATL adieu. Early word has it, coach Mike Woodson probably will not be retained.
The Hawks flew high all year, ’till they ran into Dwight Howard and the Magic. Join me in recounting their stunning return to earth…
-The Orlando Magic began the day with a morning film session. No matter the margin of victory, Stan Van Gundy’s had no trouble finding small faults in his team’s performance. At practice Sunday, SVG said the team’s D performance was uneven in Game 3. Today the Magic focused on the defensive end in the film room.
-When the curtain opened and media was allowed to enter, the Magic seemed loose and ready to for the game. Most of the players were practicing 70-footers.
-While the rest of the team climbed on the bus or walked back to their nearby hotel, Dwight Howard took his time showering. Having grown up in the A, Dwight had a family Benz with him. It’s hard to tell if it was just Dwight being Dwight, but he did seem to be in extra good spirits.
-A few members of the Magic warned that Game 4 was a “Trap Game” and that they hoped to not fall. (Fitting, being that they’re playing in the city of Young “Trap or Die” Jeezy.)
-Many of the Magic were out on the court two hours before the game shooting.
-On the other side, a few of the Hawks showed up to the arena after the early Magic players finished warming up. We’re talking about players on a team down 3-0 showing up 90 minutes before the biggest game of their season…
-In the Magic Locker Room: Per the usual, Dwight Howard hates wearing clothes. He’s strutting about with just adidas TECHFIT compression shorts on. It’s only weird that he’s undressed because it’s so damn cold in their locker room. So cold, in fact, that Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass and JJ Redick ask for the heat to be turned on.
-Marcin Gortat spends a great amount of time stretching. For a man of his size, he’s extremely limber. (He also eats a lot pregame, but that’s to be expected.)
-Matt Barnes seems to only listen to Tupac. Not complaining, just making a note of it.
-Ten minutes until the game begins and the crowd is still thinner than an anorexic chick in Hollywood.
-Joe proceeds to sink a J shortly thereafter. Cheers rain down. Atlanta fans—the few who are here—sure are fickle.
-Josh Smith just had something happen to his eye. He went back to the trainer’s room to get it looked at, and returned a few minutes later.
-The Hawks are getting outworked on both ends of the floor. They’re making the Magic look better than they actually are. (Because they can’t be this good, can they?)
-Atlanta is shooting 54 percent and they’re still down eight, 25-17. It’s probably because Orlando is shooting an astounding 77 percent (10/13), led by Jameer’s four of five.
-Mike Woodson is probably gone after the Hawks next loss. He has nothing to lose. That said, he should have started Jamal Crawford in Mike Bibby’s place. Bibby’s looked disinterested much of this series, and Crawford would present a problem for Jameer, who’d be giving up half a foot on both ends of the floor.
-Tito Horford, Al’s dad, is here, and he’s unhappy with Atlanta’s performance. Shaking his head as Barnes hits a breakaway layup, putting Magic up 13, 32-19.
-34-23 at the end of one. Spirit the Hawk, and the Hawks spirit, is nowhere to be found.
-Just spotted a tremendous stat retweeted by Russ Bengtson: According to John Hollinger, The Hawks have lost 14 straight second round games. Their last win was back in Game 2 against Chicago…in 1997.
-Jerome “The Bus” Bettis in the house. I wonder what he thinks about the whole Big Ben situation?
-Joe Johnson seems tentative. He’s missing shots he nailed all year. He looks like he’s thinking too much, and not reacting naturally. He can’t shake his man. He looks…nervous.
-46-38 and it feels like a regular season game in the Philips Arena. Crowd isn’t into the game like you’d think they would be. Do they know it’s likely the last basketball game in the city this season, or do they just not care?
-Orlando’s looking to run more tonight than they have for most of the season. And when they can’t score on the fastbreak, they pull it back and set their offense up. Hate to say it, but coach Woodson is getting undressed this series by Stan Van Gundy. Unless Larry Brown takes the GM job in Philly and hires Woody there, he probably won’t be a head coach in the NBA next year.
-If this is Joe’s last game in Atlanta, fans should give him a standing O. He may not have brought his best this postseason, but Johnson’s given them a lot over the past few seasons, including leading them back to the Playoffs after an extremely dry stretch in the early Aughts.
-51-42 Orlando, as Dwight Howard shrugs off Josh Smith and throws down a big slam. It’s worth noting that Dwight only has one foul and we’re deep into the second quarter.
-In an attempt to stop Jameer Nelson, Marvin Williams is guarding him. Thus far, it’s not helping; Meer just shook him and hit a 17-footer.
-Jameer Nelson loses the ball on a three on one near the end of the half. Saves the Hawks from giving up another two, and keeps the lead in single-digits at the half. Magic lead, 53-45.
-The Magic have not trailed tonight, though the Hawks did outscore them in the second frame 22-19.
-Josh Smith leads the Hawks with 10 points, despite the eye injury. Jameer Nelson leads all scorers with 12 (and seven assists). Dwight Howard chipped in nine.
-Coach Woodson held the Hawks in the locker room for the majority of halftime. The Magic emerged from the locker room pretty quick. I mean, Woodson must be pleading for his players to help him save his job. Meanwhile, SVG doesn’t have too much to say to his 8-0 Playoff team.
-Vince Carter drills a three over Joe Johnson’s outstretched hands. Hawks down 13. the end’s in sight for Atlanta.
-Magic up 13 and the crowd goes crazy. Why? Dwight Howard just got hit with a technical foul. All of a sudden it’s kind of noisy in here.
-Every foul is a hard foul now. Took a while, but seems like Hawks realize it’s now or never. Too late?
-Vince Carter just came up limping. What’s new? He was healthy enough to come out and shoot the two freebies.
-…And to drain a three a few plays later. Carter is on fire here in the second half. Jameer carried them early; Vince is carrying them late.
-Jamal Crawford just drew shooting fouls on Jameer Nelson on consecutive jumpers. He also stifled him on D the play prior to the first foul. I’ll say it again: Jamal should have started in Bibby’s stead tonight.
-Joe Johnson can just not shake his man. And when he does, he can’t get the shot to fall. As Arthur Triche, head of Hawks PR, tweeted: “I’ve obviously seen a lot of Joe Johnson over his career here, and I’ve never seen him in a mental block like he is now.”
-Nine point lead for Orlando headed into the fourth and final quarter. For the Hawks, this could be their last quarter of the season. For Woody, Johnson, this could be it for them here, period.
-The Magic are working to post Howard up early in the quarter. The result? Two immediate fouls on Zaza Pachulia.
-Vince Carter hits a three from the wing. The same wing where he hit a prior three. The same wing where Rashard Lewis hit one. The same wing…You get the point. The Hawks have failed to adjust to what the Magic are doing. Blame it on the players, coaches or whoever.
-It’s 84-66 with nine minutes left and the fans are headed home…
-Josh Smith just provided Rashard Lewis a three-foot cushion. And, in turn, Rashard Lewis provided the Magic with a three. Why would Josh play so far off him? KYP! (Know Your Personnel)
-90-71 halfway through the fourth. Only thing in question now is the final score.
-Matt Barnes, Anthony Johnson and a few others are spending their last quarter in Atlanta smiling and dancing to the music on the speakers. Usually, this would be insulting to the other team, but Atlanta doesn’t even seem to care. There’s no fight left in them.
-Jamal Crawford misses two free throws. (Apa)pathetic.
-93-73, leads grown to 20. Can’t be more than a few thousand fans left at The Highlight Factory.
-Joe Johnson just checked out with four minutes to go. His curtain call consisted of boos and jeers. This won’t make him want to stay in Atlanta. (When did this hatred for Joe in Atlanta arise? Only this postseason, no?)
-It’s kind of weird that SVG has left Howard, Lewis and a few other regulars in here almost the whole way. The lead was large enough to sub the starters out a few minutes back. I wonder what he’s thinking?
-Final Score: 98-84, Orlando.
-My first stop is the Magic locker room. “Giddy” wouldn’t be a bad way to describe it. Jameer is cracking jokes; Mickael Pietrus is offering daps up to random journalists; Dwight’s smile is as wide as his shoulders; and even Jason Williams is in a talkative zone.
-One of the things Jason Williams says is that this Magic team is better than the Heat one he was on that won the title with Dwyane Wade and Shaq O’Neal.
-Over in the home locker room: Players are filing out. They’re pretty depressed, and with good reason. Joe Johnson looks as upset as I’ve ever seen him. And the rest of the crew isn’t far behind.
-In coach Woodson’s office: Coach swears that this team is a “couple” players away from being legit contenders, and is doling out praise for the strides the Hawks made this season. He issues a reminder to media and fans, letting them know that this team is only a few years removed from a 13 win season. The message seems to be: Don’t be too greedy. Still, this was a terrible series, and there will be repercussions.
-So the Magic won this series in four without the Hawks issuing any real challenge. This was the largest combined margin of victory in any four-game sweep ever. Orlando is now 8-0 in the Playoffs, and will wait a week until they play in the Conference Finals.
-For the Hawks, they’ve had a solid three seasons in a row under Woody, but this may have been it for him. And with Joe Johnson and Joe Smith being in walk years, look for a very different Hawks team to take the court next season. Will they be as good? Worse? Better? Time will tell…