How in the world could the Magic lose when Howard exploded, along with Jameer Nelson scoring 27 points? Simple: when aside from those two, nobody scored more than six points, it's not a recipe for success. Everybody on the Magic team struggled mightily aside from those two. Turkoglu was 2-for-9, Richardson was 2-for-8.
But even when the rest of the team struggled, how did Atlanta come out on top with Howard and Nelson doing their thing? They got everyone involved. The Hawks had five players in double figures. Joe Johnson had 25 points and five assists, Jamal Crawford had 23 points and five assists. Al Horford, Kirk Hinrich and Josh Smith combined for 44 points. It was a joint effort that made the Hawks fly all over the Magic.
The first quarter was a defensive grudge match with each team exchanging blows. J.J. Redick checked in for the first time in 17 games because of an injured abdominal. The quarter ended with the momentum shifted toward Orlando as it ended with an Arenas to Redick fast break off the steal. The first quarter ended with Orlando on top, 19-17.
That momentum didn't really help Orlando out all that much. The game was tied at 37 with five minutes left in the second quarter until the Turkoglu alley-oop pass was flushed in by Howard. Howard ended with the new record for points in a half in Magic history with 31. But even with that, Orlando was down 55-48 at the half.
Who will win this series?
You would think Howard would continue dominating the second half. But to start off the third quarter...not so much. Atlanta really started picking up their help defense on Howard and almost neutralized his impact at the offensive end.
Howard gave a hard foul on Zaza Pachullia with five and a half minutes left in the third quarter and was assessed a technical foul for it. Luckily, the Magic had Nelson as he went crazy and had 20 points in the third quarter. At the end of the third, Atlanta led by 14, 85-71.
Atlanta got the game all the way to an 18-point lead. But Orlando started chipping away at it and with five and a half minutes left it was only an 11-point game. It was an eight-point game until Atlanta stole the ball and found Jamal Crawford in the corner for three, and that really put the game out of reach with one and a half minutes left and an 11-point Atlanta lead.
Atlanta went on to win this one, 103-93.
My reaction was, "HOW THE HELL DID ORLANDO LOSE WITH HOWARD GOING CRAZY?" I also remembered back to last year when Orlando embarrassed Atlanta in their series. Atlanta didn't forget and came back with a vengeance.
How can Orlando win their next game? Get everyone involved and take care of the ball. They allowed way to many looks in transition and Atlanta capitalized on it.