NBA Roundtable

Playoff Previews: Orlando vs Atlanta

In 2010 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2010 at 12:29 am

Orlando Magic vs Atlanta Hawks

Dwight’s Zone Defense

Dwight Howard will play off of Al Horford and zone up against Joe Johnson’s and Jamal Crawford’s isolation plays. Effectively placing himself as a constant second line between them and rim and consequently making it very difficult for the Hawks main offensive threats to get anything easy around the rim.

This tactic has successfully stalled the Hawks isolation dependent offense in each of the last three seasons.

Atlanta’s offense

  • One excellent creator — Joe Johnson
  • One excellent bench scorer + good third scorer — Jamal Crawford
  • No second go-to scoring option in the starting lineup or off of the bench. The rest of the players rely on JJ + Jamal to create their shot attempts off of isolation plays in the halfcourt offense.
    • Bibby (9ppg), Evans (4ppg) and Williams (10ppg) are largely jump shooters
    • Smith (15.7ppg), Horford (14ppg) and Zaza (4ppg) are finishers around the rim
  • None of Atlanta’s big men are effective jump shooters which allows Dwight Howard to play off of them, off the ball, and clog the paint.

It is these weaknesses that allows Orlando to hone in and limit the Hawks usually very effective (2nd in offensive efficiency) offense.

Horford + Smith vs Howard + Lewis

Both sets of these big men defend one another very well.

  • Horford has become a very strong low post defender and makes Dwight Howard’s life difficult (shot creation wise).
  • Josh Smith regularly has a huge athletic and in particularly quickness advantage against his opponents … however, Rashard Lewis is very athletic (for a PF) himself and defends Smith very well. The result has been low scoring (13.8ppg) + low efficiency (39% FG%) for Smith on the season.
  • Rashard Lewis’ perimeter orientated game usually causes problems for his opponents but Josh Smith is a very effective defensive player out there. Limiting Lewis’ advantages.
  • Dwight Howard is simply an excellent defender and Horford has a limited offensive repertoire.

Orlando’s main advantages offensively are created through the problems Dwight Howard (interior scoring) and Rashard Lewis (spacing) cause … but Atlanta’s own big men can limit these advantages.

The result is a far less effective Magic team offensively.

Ryan Anderson

Orlando’s biggest matchup problem could very well be Ryan Anderson.

The Hawks starting unit, because of Josh Smith, does an excellent job defending perimeter orientated big men but they struggle mightily once Smith heads to the bench. Atlanta’s two main backup big men, Zaza Pachulia and Joe Smith, are both ineffective defending away from the basket.

The Hawks sometimes react by placing Marvin Williams at the backup power forward position in their stead but, unfortunately, Atlanta hasn’t been nearly as effective as a team with Williams in this position. He does play adequate defense but the Hawks rebounding drops off considerably (Marvin/Mo/Jamal at PF/SF/SG provide inadequate rebounding) and their offense generally looks out of whack. As if they are unused to playing that way.

Either way, it’s an advantage for Orlando. So, if the Magic play Ryan Anderson off the bench their second unit should have a considerable advantage against the Hawks second unit and Orlando will be able to pull away during this period.

Orlando’s Other Weapons

  1. Vince Carter — not as dependable in past seasons. If Joe Johnson can contain Vince’s offense and Joe is absolutely capable of achieving this, Atlanta can force Orlando into a low scoring affair.
  2. Jameer Nelson — big matchup advantage against Mike Bibby. He can put a lot of pressure on the Hawks defense in pick and roll situations.
  3. JJ Redick
  4. Mickael Pietrus
  5. Matt Barnes + Jason Williams + Marcin Gortat + possible Brandon Bass

The Magic have more weapons outside of Dwight + Rashard than the Hawks do outside of Joe + Crawford. That is why they’ll win the series.


Atlanta will be able to trouble Orlando’s offense, especially against Orlando’s starting lineup.

Orlando will also be able to limit the Hawks offense … only they will be able to do it to a much greater degree due to the Hawks lack of offensive versatility.

I would expect Orlando to win this series in four or five tightly contested games. They will be low scoring games, dog fights late in the game, but Orlando will routinely find an extra gear to pull away and claim the victory.

Note: Ryan Anderson could make the series a lot more comfortable for Orlando. If he is playing 10-18 minutes a night, and playing well, Orlando will win some of these games comfortably. With double digit leads. If Orlando chooses to play Brandon Bass instead, then it will be a dog fight in just about every game in this series.

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