Ten observations from Magic at Hawks. . . .
- This victory could end up hurting the Hawks in the draft lottery standings. But, as I’ve said since before the season, that doesn’t matter to Hawks players and those fans who want to see competitive basketball. The customers who showed up at Philips Arena probably got their money’s worth, especially once the Magic woke up and matched the home team’s energy after halftime. The Hawks shared the ball (33 assists on 41 field goals), dominated in the paint and gave a spirited effort with an injury-thinned roster. They ended a five-game losing streak. “It feels good,” Hawks rookie Tyler Dorsey said. “For us it’s just (about) getting better and finish out the season as strong as possible.”
- After appearing disinterested in the first half and falling behind by 15 points, the Magic showed life with a 10-2 run coming out of halftime. It was a competitive game from there. The Magic got the lead down to two points early in the fourth quarter but couldn’t make enough shots against Atlanta’s frequent zone alignments. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer on that strategy: “I thought it was effective for us. Sometimes it can take teams out of their rhythm. The NBA, you are so used to running all of your stuff against man and maybe every once in a while you can throw a zone out there, especially with three ‘bigs.’ I thought it helped us a little bit.”
- The Hawks controlled Orlando’s two best players, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic (combined 20 points on 32 shots). Rookie wing Jonathan Isaac went for a career-high 15 points on 11 shots. Meanwhile Hawks bigs Dewayne Dedmon, Mike Muscala, John Collins and Miles Plumlee combined for 48 points on 41 shots.
- Budenholzer had more healthy players than usual but still used some unorthodox lineups. At one point in the second quarter the Hawks on the floor were: Josh Magette, Tyler Dorsey, DeAndre’ Bembry, Muscala and Plumlee. That group was part of a 10-0 run that put the Hawks up 35-22. Budenholzer also twice used a big lineup with Muscala at small forward alongside Dedmon and John Collins. That group played mostly zone defense during the fourth quarter. Budenholzer: “A little bit different, unique lineups and guys finding a way to play.”
- Dorsey had it going offensively (19 points on 11 shots, with one banked-in three-pointer). At times the Magic seemed strangely unconcerned about Dorsey pulling up from three. He was shooting 33.1 percent from there entering the game, including 0-for-6 over his past two games, but it’s not as if he can just be left open. Dorsey made a three-pointer for an 92-84 with two minutes left. “(The defender’s) hands was down and I just let it fly,” Dorsey said. “ I’ve been working on that shot.”
- Bembry played in his first game since Feb. 23, and his 22nd of the season. Budenholzer on his expectations for Bembry over the final 10 days: “Being healthy is probably the most important thing. We will ease him in pretty lightly. He will play short stretches, and hopefully a few of them. He’s a natural player. He has an instinct for both ends of the court, especially defensively. Would just like to see him be confident and comfortable out there.”
- Bembry played 14 minutes. The Hawks’ bench stood up in anticipation on Bembry’s first shot, a three-point attempt, but it was an air ball. That was a bad start to what ended up being a good day for Bembry under the circumstances: four points on three shots, three assists, three rebounds. Bembry would have had a couple more assists if the recipients had converted high-percentage chances. He showed good acceleration offensively and worked hard defensively. Budenholzer post-game: “It’s always his length and his athleticism and his I.Q. that really stand out.”
- The Magic couldn’t keep Collins away from the rim early. During his seven-minute run in the first quarter, Collins threw down two powerful dunks on cuts to the rim and collected five rebounds. Collins also had a couple of nice spin moves off the dribble, an element he’s added to his game lately. Budenholzer: “He’s just trying to grow and expand, just like everybody. He’s doing well.”
- Taurean Prince took a break from his recent high-volume shooting (five points on six shots) and entered play-making mode. He did well with that, especially in the first half (five assists, including a pair of nice drop-off passes to roll men).
- Magette and Tyler Cavanaugh rejoined the Hawks from Erie. Magette did his usual solid work getting passes to teammates in good spots (three assists in 19 minutes) but missed three of four three-point attempts (one a late shot-clock heave). He also got overpowered a few times on defense and against ball pressure. Cavanaugh got a DNP-CD as Plumlee played 15 minutes with eight points on five shots and six rebounds.
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