NBA Series Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic
by Alan Matthews - 5/3/2010
Are you in the rust or rest camp? You know, is it better for a playoff team to have a bunch of time off before a series or can too much time away cause said team to play inconsistent in the first game of a series?
That is what is facing the Orlando Magic when they open their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night in central Florida. The Magic, who have been off since eliminating the Charlotte Bobcats on April 26, are big -800 series favorites on Bookmaker. Atlanta, meanwhile, just eliminated the Bucks in a Game 7 on Sunday.
The Magic were able to sweep the Bobcats despite not getting a whole lot from center Dwight Howard. He fouled out in the last two games, played only 105 minutes and committed 22 fouls in four games. Certainly Orlando will need him on the court more than that against an athletic Hawks frontline led by Al Horford and Josh Smith.
Nothing much Atlanta did during the regular season against Howard worked, as he averaged 21.0 points, 16.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game as Orlando won three of four. In fact, the Magic have won six of the past seven in this series, and that lone Hawks win was on a Smith dunk at the buzzer on March 25 in Atlanta. Orlando won the first three meetings by an average of more than 23 points.
Atlanta is maddening in the playoffs because you never know which team will show up. Is it the club that lost three in a row to an undermanned Bucks team or the one that played with a sense of urgency in Games 6 and 7 against Milwaukee and won those by a combined 35 points while holding the Bucks to under 33 percent shooting? Here’s an amazing stat: Of the Hawks’ past 18 postseason games, 16 have been decided by 10 points or more. The exceptions were the Bucks’ victories in Games 4 and 5.
And this quick turnaround against a rested team looks awfully familiar to last year. In the 2009 postseason, Atlanta needed seven games to eliminate the Miami Heat. Two days later, the Hawks opened the second round against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that had swept its first-round opponent. The Hawks would then be swept by Cleveland.
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