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NBA Playoffs 2011: Atlanta vs. Orlando; Why the Hawks Can Beat the Magic

John BollerCorrespondent IApril 15, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: Atlanta vs. Orlando; Why the Hawks Can Beat the Magic

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Hawks have had another successful regular season that has earned the franchise another trip to the NBA playoffs.

    But making the playoffs for the Hawks has become the norm in recent years for the city of Atlanta. The Hawks have been building its team for more than a few seasons now, and it is time for this group to prove its status in the league and make a run in the playoffs.

    The Hawks couldn’t have asked for a better first-round matchup in their playoff Grim Reaper and division foe Orlando Magic.

    In last year’s playoffs, it was one of the worst four-game pure beat downs in NBA history. Orlando defeated Atlanta by a combined total of more 100 points, including by a total of 44 points in the two home games at “The Highlight Factory”.

    Losing is one thing. It’s a game. There is always going to be a winner and loser, and sometimes, it just is not your time. But to lose the way the Hawks did was embarrassing. The team, players and coaches appeared to just give up on the court and in front of their home crowd. Change was no longer an option, it was a must.

    Former head coach Mike Woodson was relieved of his position after bringing Atlanta from a doormat in the NBA, to a legitimate playoff team. While he and the Hawks were having the success that many thought the team was capable of, it just was not enough to make a deep run in the playoffs.

    Larry Drew, Woodson’s assistant, was promoted to succeed him, and the Hawks retained their All-Star and franchise player Joe Johnson with a six-year deal worth $119 million.

    It was the same team and coaching staff for much of the season, until February when the Hawks traded veteran point guard Mike Bibby to the Washington Wizards for a younger veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich.

    Now is the time for the Atlanta Hawks to act like their fellow Atlanta sports team the Atlanta Falcons and “Rise Up.” It is time to begin the next chapter in the franchise’s history with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    The Hawks took the season series against the Orlando Magic 3-1 and have the formula to the equation—beating the Magic in the playoffs and then making their run.

    Here’s how the Hawks will accomplish this goal.

Free Throws

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Hawks posted a 77.9 percent from the free-throw line this year, good for sixth-best in the NBA.

    Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic is the exact opposite with a league worst 69.2 percent from the foul line. Atlanta must make their free throws, and they must use all the fouls they have available on Dwight Howard.

    If there are two things that Howard has struggled with this season, it is free throws and his temper. Both are useful in beating the Magic.

3-Pointer

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    You are probably seeing three-pointer and thinking this guy thinks that the three-pointer is a reason why the Atlanta Hawks can defeat the Orlando Magic.

    Yes!

    The Atlanta Hawks held their opponents to 33.8 percent from long distance this season, fourth-best in the league behind only the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls.

    The Magic live and die by the three and shot just 36.6 percent from there this season, barely finishing in the top 10.

    If Atlanta checks Howard and keeps the Magic from getting open looks from the three-point line, it could be a much different outcome from last year.

No More Defensive Liability

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I am a huge Mike Bibby fan. I love Bibby. I thought that it was great when the Hawks got him from the Sacramento Kings. We finally had a point guard that could be the leader for the young core that had been put together by the Hawks management.

    However, it is no secret that he was not the best on the defensive side of the ball. The Eastern Conference has its fair share of talented, young point guards.

    Kirk Hinrich does have the ability on the defensive end to no longer have the point guard matchup be such a liability issue. He can hang with the likes of Jameer Nelson, Rajon Rondo, and even this year’s MVP, Derek Rose. Bring it on Jameer!

Going Big

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Atlanta should and needs to put out a big lineup against the Magic. In doing this, Al Horford is able to play on the perimeter more, knocking down the jump shots from his 15 to 18-foot hotspot.

    The athletic and high-flying Josh Smith benefits from a possible smaller matchup, freeing him up for a chance at causing more damage on the offensive glass.

    Lastly, Zaza Pachulia has been playing pretty well as of late. He doesn’t mind fouling or throwing his weight around. If there would be anybody that would gladly bow-up to Dwight Howard, it would be Pachulia.

Motivation

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Scores from last year’s second-round matchup:

    71-114

    98-112

    105-75

    98-84

    Enough said.

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