NBA Playoffs 2011: 10 Ways the Orlando Magic Can Escape a Tragic Playoff Exit
The Orlando Magic dropped Game 4 of their opening round playoff series 88-85 to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday evening. Now the Magic trail their Southeastern Division rival three games to one and will be on the brink of elimination tonight.
The Magic who have become dependent on their perimeter shooting, shot poorly from behind the arc in Game 4 only converting 2 of their 23 attempts.
Orlando was also forced to play without their starting shooting guard, Jason Richardson, after he was suspended for Game 4 after being involved in an altercation with Hawks' Center Zaza Pachulia in Game 3. Richardson's absence may explain why Orlando shot poorly from the perimeter considering that he has proven to be one of the team's most adequate shooters.
However, the poor shooting, and more importantly, Orlando's losing, is not limited to Game 4, but rather have been a pervasive trend in this series. And though the Magic may be down in the series, but they are not out of it yet, which means that they can make their own magic in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Shut Down Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford averaged 14.2 points per game (PPG) during the regular season, however, he is surging against the Magic. He has averaged over 24 PPG against them in the Playoffs which leads his team.
Crawford only averaged 12 PPG against Orlando in the three games he played against the them in the regular season indicating that they can shut him down.
If the Magic hope to win this series against Atlanta, they are going to have an answer for Crawford, because as of right now he is one fire and Orlando is getting burned.
Contain Joe Johnson
Now, I am not suggesting that Orlando can shut down Joe Johnson, because that would near impossible, but the Magic can contain him.
During the opening round series, Johnson has not put up super stellar numbers, but he is averaging 20 PPG and has certainly been effective. Orlando's only win in this series came when they held Johnson to fewer than 20 points in Game 2, only allowing him to score 14 points.
It would be within Orlando's best interest to find a way to at least neutralize Johnson's, which means keeping him under 20 points per game (PPG), especially if they want to keep him from knocking them out of the Playoffs.
Limit Open Looks, Especially in Transition
Atlanta has been forcing turnovers, grabbing rebounds, and pushing up-court in numbers, and this has been advantageous for them.
The Hawks' offense in transition has allowed them to get open shots on the perimeter, which they have used to get ahead time and time again on the Magic.
If Orlando can find a way to tighten up their defense, especially in transition, they will be able to limit the open looks taken by Atlanta's shooters, which can help them claw their way back into this series.
In Game 3, elbows went astray, heads collided that only led to further aggression and ultimately resulted technical fouls and suspensions being issued to members of both the Magic and the Hawks.
Namely, Dwight Howard was issued his second technical of the series for his wandering elbows and Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson were suspended for Game 4 due to their physical altercation.
Looking back on Game 4, Richardson's suspension proved to be troubling for the Magic as they shot poorly from the perimeter, missing shot after shot, failing to find connections from behind the arc, which led to their ultimate three-point defeat when the game clock struck triple zeros. Perhaps Richardson and his shooting abilities could have registered the three it would have taken to send Game 4 into overtime but it will forever be impossible to tell.
The Magic need to control their tempers for the rest of the series so they can avoid silly technicals and suspensions that will force them to play without some of their marquee players. Orlando has dug themselves into a hole that they will have to climb their way out of, and they will need all of their best men to do so.
Cash in on Free Throws
Despite getting to the charity stripe over ten more times per game than their opposition in the opening round of the Playoffs, Orlando has been unable to cash in.
The Magic were not a very good free throw shooting team during the regular season, and it has shown in the Playoffs. In fact, Orlando ranks dead-last among all Playoff contenders in free throw percentage, and as a unit they have suffered because of it.
Despite their ten point loss in Game 1, the Magic have been well within reach of victory in their other losses in this series, and a few converted free throw attempts could have made all of the difference. Lingering on the past and what could have been will do the Magic no good, instead, by cashing in on the free opportunities that they have to score at the line, Orlando can avoid the doom of defeat.
Magic point guard, Jameer Nelson has been confusingly inconsistent in this series. He has scored as many as 27 points in Game 1, and as few points as 6 in Game 4.
Also, Nelson's quickness and ability to drive the lane makes him a pretty good facilitator as well. By attracting the attention of opposing defenses on the interior he can create open looks near the rim for Dwight Howard, or even free up open looks for his teammates on the perimeter.
Nelson has proven that he can be a valuable contributor the Magic, and they will need him to put up more numbers like he did in Game 1, and get the ball to his open teammates if they want to make a comeback in this series.
Call in the Secret Agent
Without Jason Richardson in Game 4, Orlando called upon the services of Gilbert Arenas (who was affectionately referred to as Agent Zero from his time with the Washington Wizards) to fill in.
Though he has dropped the nickname, changed teams, and his number, Arenas is no stranger to the Playoffs as he led Washington to the Playoffs several times in his tenure there.
In Game 4, Arenas proved that he could be a valuable contributor to the Magic if they wish to continue along their Playoff journey by recording a 20 point performance. The Magic went out of their way to acquire Arenas' talents in December, and now is when they need them most. He has shown in Game 4 that he can still be a valuable asset to his team, despite a deplorable regular season, so the Magic need to get him off of the bench an into the game because he could help them emerge victorious in this series against the Hawks.
Knock Down the Three
Orlando ranked among the top ten teams in the NBA in regards to three point field goal percentage during the regular season. In this year's Playoffs, they rank dead last.
The Magic converted over 36 percent of their three-point shot attempts during the regular season, but have converted less than 22 of their attempts in the post season.
Orlando made a living off of their perimeter shooting, paired with the strong post play of Dwight Howard. Now, the Magic are dying without it. They have developed a dependency on the long range shot and now their inability to knock it down is causing them to suffer.
However, if Orlando gets their act together, and can consistently knock down the three-point shot, they put their train in motion and can crawl back into this series, and even steal it from the hopeful Hawks.
Dwight Howard was the bread and butter of this Orlando Magic team during the regular season and that identity has carried over into the playoffs.
Howard is averaging over 32 PPG and 17 rebounds per game (RPG) against the Hawks in the playoffs.
Despite his offensive talents, the Magic will also need Howard's help on the defensive end as well. His size, presence, and intensity makes Howard an ominous figure for opposing offenses, and will be needed to solidify the interior of Orlando's defense, especially because his teammates have failed to shut down the Hawks' perimeter shooters thus far in the post season.
It's obvious that the Magic rely heavily on Howard's offensive and defensive talents for their success, so it's obvious that they would need some more big performances from their big man if they wish to move on in the playoffs.
Take Some Advice from Charlie Sheen
What the Magic have been doing this series has resulted in a lot of losing, but they need to turn their ship around and start winning. Especially if they still have any hopes of winning an NBA Championship this year.
I generally would discount Charlie Sheen as a drunk, a womanizer, and a lunatic, but in this instance the Magic are in need of some desperate help, and winning, as endorsed by Sheen, is something they will certainly have to do if they hope to ground the soaring Atlanta Hawks.