The Orlando Magic had a week to rest after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats in their opening round series in the 2010 NBA playoffs. Any hint at rust against the Atlanta Hawks was not evident as the Magic dismantled the No.3 seed in a dominating performance to take Game 1 of the series.
The Magic benefited from Dwight Howard finally not getting into foul trouble early in the game and riding the bench. Howard tabbed 21 points and 12 rebounds in Orlando’s 114-71 thrashing of Atlanta.
Even head coach Stan Van Gundy was confused about what to do with No.12, as it had been commonplace for him in the first playoff series to take a seat on the bench.
“Should I give Dwight a rest?” Van Gundy told reporters he said to his assistant coaches during the game. “They said, ‘No. Just let it ride.”
Howard had a complete effort on the night, adding five blocks and asserting himself on both sides of the floor. His presence was not necessary in the fourth quarter.
“I still played about the same amount of minutes,” Howard said in a post-game interview. “The first round is over with.”
On the other side of the court, Josh Smith contributed 14 points on the night while Zaza Pachulia added 12 points.
Game 2 in this Eastern Conference semifinal will take place on Thursday night.
“It’s embarrassing,” remarked Hawks guard Mike Bibby. “They embarrassed us.”
It was the second largest margin of victory for Orlando, since a 47-point victory over Boston in 1995.
“I think the challenge is not to get carried away with the score,” Van Gundy remarked in a post-game interview. “It was one of those nights where everything just snowballed.”
The Orlando defense stymied the Atlanta offense in the second and third quarters, allowing a total of just 21 points between the two.
The Hawks were playing on 48 hours rest after a first round series that went seven games with the Milwaukee Bucks. Atlanta had to win the final two games to advance.
Rather then looking like a team coming off two solid wins and a series victory, Atlanta was not sharp in any facet of the game, including shutting down a determined Howard.
“I didn’t allow anything to throw me off my game,” Howard said remarked. “And I think that’s what I have to do the rest of the series, just not let things take me off my game, just stay free and clear.”
Van Gundy was quick to point out afterwards that he will not let this convincing victory go to his team’s head, and that while it was a good win, it was only one win.
They still need three more.
“I told them that [Wednesday] I will have for them virtually every time in NBA playoff history that a team had a blowout win, came back and lost the next game,” Van Gundy remarked. “You’ve got to forget what happened.”
The Magic are second in the line of betting favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference and play for the NBA Championship, behind only Cleveland on Online Sportsbooks.