This series is going to be a battle of the three-point line and, if it goes like the regular season, the Magic are in trouble. The Magic were a dreadful 19-for-84 from beyond the arc and followed it up with a poor free-throw experience as well. They made 67 out of 101 attempts in four games.
Atlanta was just a tad better making 21 out of 60 attempts from three-point land and struggled at the line (54 for 70), but they held the Magic to 82 points a game. That’s 17 below their season’s average.
The Magic did make an in-season trade and they definitely struggled, but it also allowed a team like Atlanta, whom they dominated in last year’s playoffs, to gain some confidence.
All that said, the Magic has more shot makers and I don’t imagine them shooting this poorly in the series. The Hawks are not the efficient offensive team they were last year and that has affected their best player – Joe Johnson.
This series will be one the best in the first round and home-court advantage will probably be the deciding factor.
The Magic are also a volatile team, leading the league in technical fouls. If I am Atlanta, I would try to light that fuse with physical play in this series. I suspect they will.
The Magic will win if…
– Dwight Howard stays out of foul trouble and gets consistent touches.
– Three of these four players (Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson) score 15-plus points a game in the series.
– Keep Joe Johnson out of sync and make Hawks shoot from perimeter.
The Hawks will win if…
– They keep Dwight Howard on the bench in foul trouble.
– Defend the three-point line like they did during the regular season.
– Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith average 55 to 60 points combined.
– Orlando 4, Atlanta 2.
SCHEDULE: April 16, April 19, April 22, April 24, April 26, April 28 and April 30 / Atlanta won the regular season series 3-1.