Game 5: Atlanta Looks To Close Out Orlando at the Amway

Joe Johnson has redeemed himself from last year's struggles against the Magic

Game 5:  Atlanta Hawks AT Orlando Magic
April 26, 2011 at 7:30 PM EST
Opening Line:  ORL -8
Current Line:  ORL -7.5
Opening Moneyline:  ORL -400 / ATL +330
Current Moneyline:  ORL -380 / ATL +320
Opening Total:  179
Current Total:  178

Orlando faces something few experts and fans alike expected by the 5th game of this series:  an elimination game.  Orlando has struggled mightily from the field, and especially from three point range, an area they have excelled in over the past few seasons.

The Magic’s last first round playoff exit was in 2007, and fans are left with the question of whether or not the trade the Magic made at mid season made the team any better at all.  For as bad as Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis were, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas have been just as bad, if not worse.  Jason Richardson has been a mild success story, but the real loss was Marcin Gortat.

Orlando has shot 20% from downtown and Van Gundy assesses the problem as too much individualism in the players’ thought patterns.  “On an individual basis as guys are struggling, the mentality becomes ‘I gotta get myself going,”’ he said. “And so guys are really hunting out shots and I think taking tougher ones because of that…You’ve gotta trust the teammates instead of the idea that we need some heroics.”

It’s left Dwight in a precarious situation where he can ill afford foul trouble, nor can Van Gundy afford to take him out of the game if it happens.  Due to this, Dwight Howard is averaging 32.2 points per game and has played 45, 48 (all game), 44, and 42 minutes in the four games of this series, an average of nearly 45 minutes a night.  When the Magic had Gortat, Dwight Howard was able to at least get 10 minutes of rest a game.  The question has to be, even if the Magic somehow improbably advance to round two, what will Howard even have left in the tank at that point?

The Magic’s defense can plausibly be called good, but the job that the Magic have done on Joe Johnson, and especially Jamal Crawford has been very poor.  Crawford became the first bench player since Kevin McHale to score 20+ in the first four games of a series.  Indeed, Crawford is establishing himself as one of the best sixth men in recent history.

For all the problems the Magic are facing, Hawks coach Larry Drew knows not to get complacent against a team that won 8 more games during the regular season.  “It’s very important,” Drew said. “I’m always talking about this team growing. To me, them positioning themselves like they are right now to go into Orlando and to finish this thing off, that’s a huge step in our growth process…Particularly after what they did to us last year…it left a bad taste in our mouths.”

Some betting trends:

The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Atlanta’s last 7 games and the Hawks are 3-7 SU in their last 10 games.  The Hawks are 1-5 SU in their last 6 games on the road and the total has gone UNDER in 12 of their last 17 road games.  The total has also gone UNDER in 9 of Atlanta’s last 10 games while the Hawks are 6-1 SU in their last 7 games against the Orlando Magic.  Atlanta is 2-7 SU in their last 9 road games in Orlando, however, and the total has gone UNDER in 6 of the last 8 road games against the Magic.

The total has gone UNDER in 5 of the Magic’s past 6 games and the Magic are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games.  Orlando is 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games at home and the total has gone UNDER in 8 of their last 10 games at home.  Orlando is 6-2 SU in their last 7 games against the Hawks.  Orlando is 1-6 SU in their last 7 games against the Hawks.  Orlando is 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games against the Hawks.  The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Orlando’s last 10 games against the Hawks and the Magic are 7-2 SU in their last 9 games against the Hawks.  The Magic are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games against the Hawks.  The total has gone UNDER in 6 of the Magic’s last 8 games at home against the Hawks.

Expect the Magic to come out with some fire and passion.  If nothing else, they want to avoid the embarrassing 4-1 defeat to a team many considered inferior.  If the Magic can’t properly defend the Hawks backcourt, though, this series ends tonight.

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