Magic roll past Hawks for 3-0 series lead Lakers go outside to open 3-0 lead on Jazz
by PAUL NEWBERRY
ATLANTA — The Orlando Magic kept up their dominating romp through the NBA playoffs, and the Atlanta Hawks can't do anything to stop it.
The Magic made it seven straight postseason wins with a 105-75 blowout yesterday, showing off all their weapons beyond Superman while handing the Hawks the worst home playoff loss in franchise history.
Dwight Howard put up his usual stout numbers — 21 points and 16 rebounds — but he didn't stand out playing in his hometown. No one on the Magic really did, which is the real beauty of a team playing better than anyone at the most crucial time of year.
Rashard Lewis scored 22 points and knocked down four 3-pointers. Jameer Nelson chipped in with 14 points and four assists. Mickael Pietrus added 13 points, hitting three shots beyond the arc. Marcin Gortat grabbed six rebounds in less than 10 minutes relieving Howard. Matt Barnes had 11 points.
"We understand that for us to win we have to play together," Howard said. "We have a lot of shooters, and we try to feed off that."
All 10 Orlando players who got on the court made it to the scoresheet, and the Magic worked even harder at the defensive end. Atlanta made a measly 35 percent from the field, getting only eight points from star Joe Johnson on 3-of-15 shooting.
The Hawks have been battered in three straight games, losing by an average of 29 points to a team that finished just ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. Their previous worst playoff defeat at home was a 107-83 rout by Philadelphia in 1980.
"A tough, ugly loss," Johnson said. "Embarrassing."
Orlando, which has won 13 straight dating to the regular season, will try to wrap up its second straight sweep in Game 4 tomorrow.
Johnson, who'll be part of what could be the greatest free-agent class in NBA history, may be costing himself millions with his performance in the playoffs. He's shooting just 29 percent against the Magic, averaging 12.3 points a game. Over the last six postseason games, he's averaging 13.3 points on 31 percent shooting.
"Guys look to me for guidance," Johnson said. "When I'm playing like that, it's almost impossible for us to win."
At this point, the Hawks are playing for nothing but pride, hoping to avoid getting swept in the second round for the second year in a row.
Last year, a rash of injuries left them feeling as though they didn't get a fair shot against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
No such excuses this year. Atlanta is at full strength but has simply run up against a superior team at the peak of its game, and frequent lapses have left the Hawks looking more outclassed than anyone could have expected — especially playing at home, where they went 34-7 during the regular season.
"It's just not there," Al Horford said. "The guys know what we have to do. It's just frustrating when the effort isn't there."
No NBA team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit, and the challenge looks more daunting considering how well the Magic are playing.
Atlanta never led in this one and was trailing 24-16 when Howard picked up his second foul with 1:45 left in the opening quarter. Even with its big man on the bench, Orlando just kept adding to it lead.
Even with only one starter on the court, the Magic kept the Hawks in check. By the time Howard returned with just under 7 minutes left in the first half, Orlando was comfortably ahead 38-24. After Mike Bibby missed a 3-pointer, Howard grabbed the rebound and the Magic worked the ball to Pietrus for a 3-pointer that stretched the margin to 41-24.