The Orlando Magic are in some serious trouble against a team that gave up more points than it scored in the regular season. Game 3 could have gone either way, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Magic are a team built around Dwight Howard and versatile shooters, and the versatile shooters have failed to show up.
Howard didn’t have the kind of masterpiece performance that he did in Games 1 or 2, but he still did enough to give the Magic a very good chance on Friday. He scored in the post, patrolled the paint on defense, and controlled the glass, but that wasn’t enough to elevate his sub-par supporting cast in an 88-84 loss.
In Game 2, Howard had to play all 48 minutes. In Game 3, Howard was only allowed to sit for three minutes, and the Magic were outscored by seven points in those three minutes.
Hedo Turkoglu looked two steps slower than everyone else on the court, and it’s hard to remember that he was actually causing mismatches as recently as 2009. Jameer Nelson is a fine player, but he’s also a score-first guard that isn’t the most reliable scorer in the world. Jason Richardson is a 3-point shooter at this point in his career, and he’s shot 26.7 percent from beyond the arc in this series. On Friday night, he made things worse by getting himself ejected after a fight with card-carrying instigator Zaza Pachulia. Gilbert Arenas is done. If it wasn’t for Quentin Richardson rising from the dead to hit a few threes, the Magic would have had no bench production to speak of.
The Magic aren’t just losing a series to a team they should be beating; they’re providing a compelling case for Howard’s departure after the 2012 season. If the Magic don’t make some major changes in the next few days or some major roster moves in the next few months, Howard may not be long for Orlando.
The Hawks didn’t have their best game offensively, but they were able to do enough to best the Magic’s pitiful efforts from the perimeter. The Hawks’ offense was stagnant and Joe Johnson still doesn’t look like a true No. 1 option, but some timely shots from Jamal Crawford (including one of his signature four-point plays and a ludicrous off-the-dribble banked three that turned out to be the game-winner) were enough for the Hawks in Game 3.
The Magic need to find answers, and fast. If they don’t get a win in Game 4, they’re likely looking at an early playoff exit. And with Howard’s impending free agency likely to loom over the team for the duration of next season, and how weak his supporting cast has looked, being eliminated in the first round would only be the beginning of Orlando’s problems.