Sure, it's happened before. Not often, but it's happened. And while many Magic fans, including myself, admit that defeat is certainly around the corner, we can still believe that the rare, but possible, 3-1 comeback is possible.
Hey, the Pistons did it to the Magic in 2003. When is it our turn?
Now, if the Magic lose it's just a first round exit at the hands of a better team. The opponent's talent and superiority is not disputable once elimination happens. I'll be the first realist to admit the Hawks got their revenge and were the better team. I'm not a 'well, if we had this or that' kind of fan. You beat my team, you deserve to advance and I'll root for you in the next round.
But the Hawks have to win four to advance and they've won three. So until that elimination happens, the Magic are alive. And here are some thoughts I have on how the Magic can get back in the series. These are things they MUST fix to survive or it's 0-22 in the title department.
Yes, this is the playoffs and it isn't a great time to experiment with chemistry. But it's also win and go home time with no reset until round 2 (or next year).
Hedo Turkoglu is not getting it done as a starter. His coach, Stan Van Gundy, has confidence in him as the clutch-go-to guy despite a full season of mediocrity (with occasional flashes of old brilliance) and virtually no production during the playoffs so far.
Turk's game high in the four games so far was 10. He's shooting 11 for 48 overall (including 3 of 23 from behind the arc) which is a disastrous 22%.
Maybe he can provide a spark off the bench but, as a starter, the Hawks know they have the superior matchup for 37-40 minutes a game.
I'm not saying it's Free Earl Clark time, but it might be time to mix things up. First, take Turkoglu out and put Quentin Richardson in his place. Richardson isn't a prolific scorer but he's shooting at a higher %, offers a strong post move, and can hit from outside if necessary (he's shooting four of six for the series from three).
Also, QRich has almost grabbed as many rebounds as Turkoglu in less then half the playing time.
Hey, I'm no coach, but I suggest this lineup:
- PG Jameer Nelson
- SG Jason Richardson
- SF Quentin Richardson
- PF Ryan Anderson
- C Dwight Howard
I also removed Brandon Bass from the starting lineup because Ryan Anderson is a better offensive rebounder (which is needed for all the clanging the Magic are doing) and causes matchup problems at PF due to his deep range.
When you read off Dwight Howard's Superman-like numbers (45.3 MPG, 32.3 PPG, 17.5 RPG, 1.75 BPG), it seems like the Magic should have swept Atlanta and been on to the next round. Dwight Howard has been simply unstoppable.
But, that's what the Hawks want everyone to think (and know). The Magic used to utilize the same policy the Hawks are using with Howard on the likes of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James: let them get theirs and contain the rest. It's working.
It's clear letting Howard dominate is keeping the Magic in games (the Magic lost game one by 10 but have been within four and three in the other two losses) but Howard has been unable to create offense outside of scoring (his assist average is below one). Yes, some of this is down to the Magic's atrocious shooting, but if Howard sees daylight, he'll take it, and that is an action falling right into the Hawks hands.
By all means, if two points are within reach then give it to the big fella BUT, if down by multiple possessions, it might be wise to write up some new Xs and Os exploiting other matchups.
Right now the Hawks don't have to respect the shooters on the Magic because they are bricking left and right. But if decent plays are drawn up, not involving 20-25 footers, but 10-15 footers, then the Hawks have to think twice about leaving folks alone.
Sure, easier said then done, and the Hawks aren't falling for double team tricks, but something has to be done to make Howard less important, believe it or not.
The return of Jason Richardson helps the depth a bit but the Magic have had 11 DNP-CDs in the four games so far (Duhon missed two games for injury while Richardson sat out for a suspension).
The problem with the series for the Magic hasn't been matching up offense for offense. The Magic's defense, save game one, has still been outstanding (allowing only 90.2 PPG). But the offense hasn't helped. It's almost like a great pitcher not getting run support from the batters. The Magic are the Felix Hernandez of the NBA Playoffs.
So, my theory, is try to get offense where you can. You never know until you try, right? Yeah, Chris Duhon (known for defense), Earl Clark (known for riding pine), and Malik Allen (known for being fat) aren't offensive phenoms, but it's clear current offensive schemes aren't working. Why not dig into the depth chart and see what happens?
Plus, JJ Redick has only been playing 20 minutes per game. I'd like to see him more on the court then on the bench.
Desperation? Yes. One game from elimination? Yes, so I'm down with desperation.
This is even less controllable then shooting baskets and hoping they go in, but the Magic need a mental pep talk and take everything one game at a time.
The pressure is on the Magic from one perspective since they have to win three out of three to advance but the Hawks, perennial underachievers on the edge of pulling off an upset, and on an old tormentor no less, also have pressure. They've only have to win one of three. . .but what a one, eh?
Since the Hawks have to take it, literally, one game at a time, the Magic can have the luxury of doing the same. If they lose, they go home, so why not go for broke? Don't play it safe, go all out (just don't headbutt anyone), and remember if you get a win, you get another night to play spoiler.
Once again, not controllable by any means, but a strong part of this Magic team (DH12, Turk, Nelson, Redick) have won six playoff series and been to an NBA Finals before. They should be able to show calm and resolve and lead the rest of the team, all who have experienced various levels of success, to something respectable.