Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic Game 1 NBA Playoff Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Atlanta Hawks (53-29 SU, 45-33-4 ATS) vs. Orlando Magic (53-29 SU, 48-34 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, May 4, 2010, Amway Arena, Orlando, Fla. TV: TNT
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Hawks +9/Magic -9
Over/Under: 192

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The Orlando Magic have been waiting patiently for their next opponent. After a week of preparation, the Magic will host the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Magic took care of the Charlotte Bobcats in a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs, which they finished off last Monday, while the Hawks won in seven games over the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, which ended on Sunday with a blowout home victory in Game 7.

The Hawks took a 2-0 series lead with a pair of home victories over the Bucks but then lost both games in Milwaukee to even the series at 2-2. The Bucks won again in Game 5 in Atlanta to take a 3-2 series lead after the Hawks had a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter and a nine-point lead with four minutes remaining. But the Hawks stepped up defensively to win the next two games and win the series, as the Bucks scored just 69 points in Game 6 and 74 points in Game 7 and the Hawks won by 24 points and 21 points, respectively, in the two games.

In the series against the Bucks, Mike Bibby averaged 11 points per game for the Hawks but had less than three assists per game. They need more from their starting point guard to win some games against the Magic. Jamal Crawford didn’t shoot a high percentage (38.1 percent from the field) but he did score almost 16 points per game off the bench. Al Horford averaged about 16 points and 10 rebounds per game in the series. Joe Johnson carried the Hawks with about 21 points per game and five rebounds and six assists per game. But Johnson shot just 4-of-14 from the field and had only eight points in Game 7. Josh Smith had about 13 points and 10 rebounds per game, but he was inconsistent. He scored only seven points in Games 3 and 5, both losses. He grabbed at least nine rebounds in every game other than Game 7, in which he grabbed just five rebounds. Marvin Williams averaged about 10 points and six boards per game in the series.

Dwight Howard struggled in the Magic’s series against the Bobcats. He scored less than 10 points and grabbed less than 10 rebounds per game while fouling out in two of the four games and getting five fouls in the other two games. He failed to play 29 minutes in any of the four games. Howard has to stay out of foul trouble, stay in the games much longer, and be more of a factor on both ends of the court against the Hawks for the Magic to be successful. Jameer Nelson had a breakout series, carrying the Magic offensively with about 24 points per game, including two games over 30 points. If he and Bibby stay consistent from what they did in the first round, the Magic will have a huge advantage at point guard with Nelson. Rashard Lewis averaged about 16 points per game while shooting over 46 percent from 3-point range and hitting 12 3-pointers in the four games. Vince Carter shot 15.5 points per game and shot just 35.7 percent from the field and made just 1-of-17 from 3-point range in the series. The Magic certainly need a ton more from Carter against the Hawks. Nelson has to focus on running the point and setting up his teammates, so if Carter isn’t making shots and Howard isn’t dominating down low, then it throws the team’s balance out of whack. Mickael Pietrus, on the other hand, is shooting well right now. He scored nine points per game in the first round and made 10-of-20 from 3-point range.

The Magic won three of their four meetings with the Hawks during the regular season. The Magic won by an average of more than 22 points per game in their three wins over the Hawks, while the Hawks won 86-84 at home on March 24, the last meeting between these teams, in their lone win over the Magic this season.

The under is 5-0 in the last five meetings between these teams. The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these teams. The Hawks are 1-6 ATS in their last seven meetings against the Hawks and 1-4 ATS in their last five meetings in Orlando.

Ryno’s Pick: This is a really bad matchup for the Hawks. Orlando has pretty much “handled” theme in the recent past. Lay the nine points and take the Magic to cover the spread.

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