Is the only thing standing in the Orlando Magic's way the Orlando Magic themselves? Game 2 of their second round series versus the Hawks tips at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Welcome to the NBA playoffs Dwight Howard! The league’s self-proclaimed Superman donned his cape Tuesday night at Amway Arena against the Atlanta Hawks after being Clark Kent in the Orlando Magic’s opening round postseason ouster of Charlotte.
Howard was totally dominant, accounting for 21 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in only 28 minutes. The 6-foot-11 center led a surging Magic team that topped the NBA in point differential and blowout victories this season to a 114-71 rout of the Hawks.
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If this is the Howard we’re going to see for the remainder of the playoffs, cancel those plans for a Cleveland-Los Angeles finals.
The best-of-seven series resumes Thursday night in Orlando, where the Magic has won its last four games against Atlanta by an average margin of nearly 32 points.
The only thing that can stop Orlando from winning this series in four or five games is its own overconfidence. The Magic has matchup advantages they can easily exploit, while Howard takes away the easy baskets the Hawks try to get off their mismatches.
Nothing worked for Atlanta at either end, and it’s hard to see how a strategic tweak or two is going to change things.
The best way to defend Orlando is to try and single-cover Howard—dare him to get 40 or 50 points — and limit the surrounding shooters. The worst way is to do as the Hawks did Tuesday, which was to do neither.
This is why so few fans outside Atlanta, and many in Atlanta, take seriously a team that won 53 games during the regular-season.
Granted, Orlando still has to beat the Hawks three more times and the defending conference champs don’t get any extra credit for Tuesday’s lopsided victory. However, the Magic has been performing at a high level for quite some time and getting little attention.
Orlando is 27-4 since Feb. 21 and it hasn’t lost since April 2 at San Antonio. The Magic ended the regular-season on a six-game streak and has now won five straight in the playoffs. More importantly for the betting fraternity, Orlando has cashed four straight and 12 of its last 14.
The Magic has also won 10 straight at Amway Arena, and seven of those have been by at least 14 points.
Atlanta has come up short in seven of its last eight meetings with Orlando ATS, failing to cash four straight in Florida. The Hawks have bounced back to ‘cover’ at an 8-2-1 clip off a double-digit loss. They are 1-5 ATS off a SU loss and 0-4-1 in the conference semifinals.
The ‘under’ has cashed in nine of the last 13 series scuffles, including the past six and five of seven at Orlando.
Atlanta has ducked ‘under’ in its last four trips to the post and the Magic has followed suit in five straight in the conference semis. The Hawks have jumped the number in eight straight contests following a double-digit drubbing.
Most offshore books opened Orlando as nine-point favorites in Thursday’s Game 2, with the ‘total’ set at 189.
Thursday's contest is the only NBA game on the board, with the tip set for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.