NBA Playoffs: Magic decimate Hawks again, get second straight sweep

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Well, that’s it for the Hawks. After yet another blowout, the Orlando Magic are advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals while the Hawks are going home. The Hawks were completely overwhelmed by the Magic, who never trailed in game four and maintained a double-digit lead for nearly the entire second half. After being considered the forgotten contender in the East all season, the Hawks played like it in the playoffs, going 4-7 in the postseason. They lost the series by a combined total of 101 points; according to Michael Cunningham, that’s an NBA record for a four-game sweep. This is the second year in a row the Hawks were swept in the second round. Meanwhile, the Magic improve to 8-0 in the postseason, and now have a nice long rest before the conference finals. 

Once again, it was the Magic’s defense and three-point shooting that overwhelmed the Hawks. Dwight Howard was relatively quiet in game four, scoring 13 points on 5-5 shooting from the field but committing seven turnovers in the process. The rest of the Magic players were more than willing to pick up the slack for him. The Magic put the Hawks away by shooting 16-37 from the arc, with Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, and Mickael Pietrus hitting four threes apiece. The Hawks shot 3-12 from beyond the arc — that’s a 39-point advantage on threes for the Magic. 
Nobody really stepped up for the Hawks. Jamal Crawford was again the bright spot. Even though he struggled with his shot, Crawford was able to get to the line consistently, leading the Hawks with 18 points off the bench. The Hawks were outscored by 11 points during the eight minutes Crawford sat. Mike Bibby was again horrendous; the Hawks were outscored by 16 points during his 11 minutes of play, and it’s clear he shouldn’t be playing against any team with a good point guard at this point of his career. Joe Johnson went 5-15 from the floor; he may have cost himself a lot of money in this series. Josh Smith was inconsistent, and Marvin Williams continued to be completely invisible. 
For the Magic, it was all good news. Vince Carter led the way with 22 points, and the Magic have to be encouraged by his play going into the conference finals. Rashard Lewis had 17 on only 10 shots and one free throw attempt, while Jameer Nelson set the pace with 16 points and a game-high nine assists. 
The Magic have to feel good after the first two series. To beat them, a team is going to have to penetrate their defense, shut down Howard inside, and keep their shooters from getting hot. In eight games, no team has been able to do all of those things successfully. 
The one caveat for them going forward is that Howard will be facing either Kendrick Perkins or Shaquille O’Neal down low in the conference finals, both of whom provide a much more formidable challenge than Al Horford or Zaza Pachulia did in this series. If Howard plays like he did against Charlotte, The Celtics or Cavaliers could muster up enough offense to send the Magic home. If Howard can be effective in the post and stay out of foul trouble, the Magic have to be the overwhelming favorites to come out of the East again this season, and have a very good chance of winning the first championship in Magic history. The Magic are only halfway to their goal, but they sure do look like a juggernaut at the moment. 

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: