Naturally, the match-up between the four and the five seed in the NBA Playoffs should be the most enticing to watch, at least theoretically speaking because you would expect the teams to be evenly matched. For this reason, four-five match-up can typically produce for some nail-biting games and some dramatic series in the Playoffs.
Adding fuel to the fire of this series, the Magic and the Hawks are division rivals, and Atlanta bested the Magic by capturing three victories in their four regular season meetings and Orlando will be looking for revenge.
Also, last season, the Magic decided to do a bit of spring cleaning in last years playoffs as they picked up the brooms and swept the Hawks in the second round, after sweeping Charlotte in the first. The Hawks will want to redeem themselves in this years playoffs by avoiding another sweep at the hands of the Magic.
Despite the fact that the Hawks have gotten the best of Orlando during the regular season, I believe the playoffs will be different story. One of pure Magic.
A team's regular season schedule serves as a representation of their team's capabilities. And the Atlanta Hawks finished eight games behind the Orlando Magic. This season, the Magic have won twelve more games than the Hawks.
If this representation is true, the Magic should have more success than the Hawks in this year's playoffs.
The Magic force 13.9 turnovers per game, which slightly edges out the Hawks who only force 12.5 turnovers per game. Though the advantage is slim, this is a playoff series where every possession is a valuable - one turnover can cost you the game.
It's a meager advantage, but with Orlando's stingy defense and potent offense, turnovers can prove to be costly for Atlanta.
Coming into the playoffs, the Orlando Magic won four of their last five games. Their only loss came at the hands of the Eastern Conference's number one seed, the Chicago Bulls, in game where a Dwight Howard-less Magic team demonstrated their resolve.
Conversely, the Atlanta Hawks are entering the playoffs on a six game losing skid, dropping three of their last six games by ten points or more.
The bottom line is, the Hawks are on a downswing, while Dwight Howard and the Magic showed that they mean business, especially in their final three regular season games. The momentum coming will be a factor that plays to Orlando's advantage, and could possibly lead to the Magic sweeping the Hawks in the playoffs again this year.
Dwight Howard is one of the best rebounders in all of basketball, and is a big reason that the Magic average 43.2 rebounds per game putting them sixth among all NBA teams in that category.
The Magic are 20-10 against poor rebounding teams and the Hawks are twenty-seventh in the league averaging only 39.3 rebounds per game.
Orlando's ability to accumulate rebounds will translate into more possessions for them, and more chances to score. This is one of the advantages that plays heavily to the Orlando's favor because it will give them more chances to bury Atlanta in the opening round.
The Magic rank first in the league in three-pointers made, averaging 9.3 per game.
Atlanta is seventeenth in the league, only knocking down 6.1 threes per game.
With perimeter shooters like Jason Richardson, Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, J.J. Redick, and Ryan Anderson, each of whom have shoot thirty-eight percent or better from behind the arch this season, Orlando has a hearty arsenal.
If one shooter is cold, their are others that can pick up the slack. Not to mention, all of the Magic shooters have had prior playoff experience which may help to ease their temperaments and nerves when shooting from downtown in the first round of the playoffs.
Orlando's ability to stack up threes against their competition, gives them the ability to come back if they fall behind, as well as the ability to bury an opponent early if they are not on their game. Therefore, I think Orlando's shooting capabilities give them a sizable edge over the Hawks.
Orlando's offense outscored Atlanta's over five points per game in the regular season.
They have very skilled perimeter shooters that can knock down three pointers, and an interior which thrives because of the lengthy Dwight Howard.
Though, we may see some tough and gritty games between from these two teams, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Magic offense take advantage of their scoring abilities to put away the Hawks in the first round.
The Magic have a bench that boasts a good deal of talent that ranges outside their starting five. For instance, they have the once great Gilbert Arenas who has playoff experience that could perhaps translate to some solid performances in the playoffs.
Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick both have playoff experience and give Orlando three-point shooters to turn to if they need a boost off of the bench. Anderson especially has been on fire of late, so perhaps his recent success will translate to the playoffs too.
If bench players like Arenas, Redick, and Anderson step up, Orlando could be awfully tough for Atlanta to keep up with.
Orlando has a stingy defense. They rank fourth in the NBA, permitting only 93.9 points per game against them. Atlanta falls slightly behind them allowing 95.8 points per contest.
Opponents only shoot 43.6 percent against Orlando's defense which is fourth best in the NBA. On the contrary, Atlanta ranks eighteenth in the league in opponent's field goal percentage, allowing their opponents to shoot 46 percent against them.
Dwight Howard who anchors the Magic defense as their premier shot blocker. He averages 2.38 blocks per game which denies opposing offenses easy access to the basket.
Orlando's defense will be another factor that could allow them to handily dispose of Atlanta.
The Magic, with the four seed, secured the home-court advantage for the opening round of the playoffs.
Orlando wins 67.4 percent of their home games, while Atlanta wins fewer than 50 percent of their away games.
Playing at the Amway Center, in front of the home crowd will be a luxury that the Magic will enjoy and can play to their advantage.
Dwight Howard's performance this year has been outstanding. His rebounding averages were second to only Kevin Love in the regular season. Howard also led all NBA centers in scoring this season by averaging 22.9 points per game. After averaging a double-double in the regular season, Howard has received some well-earned MVP consideration from the media.
Howard's ability to block shots and body up big men gives the Magic not just an offensive weapon, but also a star defender. Howard's defensive efforts this season make him a candidate for his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award and will be a hurdle for Atlanta's offense in the paint.
After watching Howard's vicious dunk on Jrue Holiday after returning from his one game suspension for receiving his 18th technical, it is without a doubt in my mind that he is ready and is set to leave a definitive mark on this series.