- Associated Press - Monday, April 18, 2011

ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - The Atlanta Hawks looked liked anything but a postseason threat two weeks ago, trudging into the playoffs riding a six-game losing skid.

Now they can take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series against the Orlando Magic.

“Oh yeah. We came here with the objective to get two games,” Hawks center Jason Collins said when asked if taking two games on the road would be a “death blow” to the Magic. “We put ourselves in position and now we look forward to getting Game 2 on Tuesday night.”

The Hawks‘ winning formula in the series opener was hot outside shooting, keeping their turnovers down and withstanding the Magic’s runs.


Orlando’s defense is designed to close out opponent’s shooters on the perimeter and force them into the paint where they have to deal with Dwight Howard. The Magic didn’t succeed at either, and now they say it’s a must to even the series in Game 2.

“Our whole focus has been on protect the paint and they haven’t been looking to get to the rim a whole lot,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.

Van Gundy said containing perimeter jump shots and the Hawks mid-range shots are their biggest concerns. He said he counted only eight layups for the Hawks in Game 1. For the game, Atlanta scored only 36 of their 103 points in the paint, but became the first opponent in 16 consecutive postseason games to score 100 points against the Magic

“Even the (Hawks‘) 51 percent (field goal percentage) was deceptive, because going into the fourth (quarter) they were at 58 percent and that’s when the game was decided,” Van Gundy said. “So they really had their way with us. And we’ve got to be a lot better defensively, no matter what we do offensively.

“If we’re going to have to score 105 or 106 points every night to win, then we’re gonna be in trouble.”

The Hawks aren’t likely to shoot close to 60 percent for most of Game 2, but they say they aren’t relying on that.

Jamal Crawford, who had 23 points in Game 1, said it wasn’t an anomaly that they shot so well. He said if don’t do that again, Plan B isn’t complex.

“Just to continue to do it with five guys,” he said. “Continue to make the right play giving up good shots for great shots. That’s why we shot such a high percentage. Guys passed up some good shots but we got great shots in the long run, we worked the clock well. We will continue to do things well that were successful for us.”

That said, Hawks‘ coach Larry Drew noted that they can’t depend on jumpers against a Magic team that has had two days to make tweaks to their approach.

“We don’t want to be a team that relies on just shooting jump shots,” Drew said. ” … We like to open the floor up. It won’t be a situation of us just settling for the perimeter. We’ve got to find that balance of inside-out. As dominant as Dwight is on the inside, we can’t shy away from taking the ball to the basket. We have to be the aggressor.”

But clearly the Hawks‘ advantage is their size on the perimeter.

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