Eastern Conference first-round preview: Magic vs. Hawks
The Washington Generals took less of a beating than the Hawks did in the second round last postseason, when Orlando swept them right out of the playoffs. That Hawks team was one-dimensional offensively and had problems -- big problems -- defending the center and point guard positions. That Hawks team lost by an average of 25.3 points, including a 43-point blowout in Game 1.
This Hawks team (44-38) is a little different. The addition of Kirk Hinrich has stabilized the point guard position, and new coach Larry Drew has (somewhat) diversified the offense. Atlanta took three of four from Orlando (52-30) during the regular season while keeping Howard (19.3 points on 43.1 percent shooting) reasonably in check.
The Hawks aren't going to fold at the mere sight of Howard like they did last season. But an experienced team like Orlando isn't going to be held to fewer than 82 points, as it was in all three losses to the Hawks this season. The addition of Hinrich and the emergence of Collins gives Atlanta two weapons they lacked last season but the Magic have a few of their own, as well as a pretty big chip on their shoulders for being dismissed as an Eastern Conference contender so quickly. This series will go longer than the last one and it will get chippy between Howard and the Hawks' front line. But look for Orlando to prevail.