Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic
Tonight, the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic begin a playoff series that some believe will be the only competitive first round series in the East.Â The Orlando Magic is 8-point favorites over the Atlanta Hawks with an over/under point total of 180 in Game 1 of the series.
Atlanta wilted in the second round of last year’s postseason, getting swept and pummeled by Orlando like they were a measly lottery team. The Hawks have similarly faded at the end of the 2010-11 regular season, losing their last seven games. This talented roster finished produced just 44 wins- 9 fewer wins than a very similar roster produced last season. The effort on this team has been questioned many times, and it is not hard to see why. Al Horford, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith are capable of leading a team to greater heights.
On the other side, the Magic finished with a much more respectable 53 wins and won four of its last five games of the regular season. In fact, the only loss in that stretch came in a nail-biter played against top-seeded Chicago without Dwight Howard. Stan Van Gundy’s squad outscored its opponents by over five points a game on average. With the most dominant defensive player in the league and some veteran role-players with playoff experience, it is easy to see why Orlando is opening as 8-point favorites in game one of round one. So does this have a chance to be a competitive series?
It all depends on how much you value the importance of head-to-head matchups. The Hawks took three out of four games from the Magic this season, including both meetings after Orlando shook up its roster with its stunning trades. Jason Collins has been lauded for his post defense on Dwight Howard, and there is no doubt that Howard and co. struggled against the Atlanta defense this year. Other than that, this Magic team is a notch above its division rival in just about every way. They have the best player and best coach, the more productive offense and defense, and the most playoff experience. Atlanta has the personnel to steal one on the road, but right now I have little reason to believe that will happen. Orlando controls the game and gets out to a 1-0 series lead.Â Take Orlando minus the 8-points.
Orlando Magic -8 Atlanta Hawks