The Orlando Magic battled past a tight first quarter to rout the Atlanta Hawks 114–71 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series opener in Orlando on Tuesday night.
It was one of most dominating wins of any team in this year’s playoffs, so Orlando’s long wait after their first round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats must have really paid off.
Atlanta on the other hand was coming off a grueling seven-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks that ended on Monday.
Superman Dwight Howard got out of his scoring and foul funk and was the hero of the night with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 shot blocks. It was his first double-double in the postseason.
Vince Carter stepped up with 20 points including shooting 5–5 from the foul line, and Jameer Nelson kept his great playoffs going with 19 points including 3–5 in 3-point land.
“We wanted to come out sharp and deliver the first blow, especially at home,” Vince Carter told TNT after the game. “It was important for our intensity to be at a really high level.”
Howard had been plagued with foul trouble throughout the Charlotte series, but only had three fouls on Tuesday night.
The Hawks scored 16 of their 23 points in the first quarter from the paint, where Howard was likely playing a little soft intentionally.
The Magic scraped ahead 25–23 in the first quarter and then it was all over for the Hawks.
Atlanta’s offense went stagnant in the second quarter with no energy in transition, poor ball movement, and too much solo play.
Everything fell into place for Orlando and Howard was able to find his groove of aggressive yet foul-free play. Orlando’s second team players J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus really gave the Magic a boost to help close the half 53–33.
“Two more quarters of work and I’ll be happy,” Howard said at the half. “I think we made them take tough shots but we also got out in transition and got some easy baskets.”
Orlando continued their assault in the third quarter outscoring Atlanta 32–11 with Carter, Nelson, and Howard all contributing. It was impressive but didn’t appear to be that difficult to pull off, as Atlanta’s defense seemed bewildered.
The fourth quarter wasn’t as lopsided with Atlanta’s second team stepping up the scoring. But there was no hope to erase the deficit of the previous two quarters.
Atlanta’s Josh Smith and reserve center Zaza Pachulia led the team in scoring with 14 points and 12 points for the night, respectively. But the team shot a miserable 28–81 from the field, compared to Orlando going 44–84.
“This is great, but we have to go back and get ready for their adjustments for the next one,” Carter said.
The Magic hosts the Hawks in Orlando again on Thursday. The Hawks need to lift their heads up after this devastating defeat.