Heating Up Joe Cool
The Hawks’ key to a Game 3 victory may lie in the hands of their five-time all-star, Joe Johnson.
Johnson was huge in Game 1, coming through with clutch baskets each time the Magic made a run in the second half. His biggest weapon was a mid-range floater that got him past the first line of defense but shot over the outstretched arms of Dwight Howard. Joe finished with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting.
In Game 2 the Magic made a concerted effort to take away Joe’s mid-range shots. He was forced to take shots moving away from the basket, and out of rhythm.
“In Game 2 the double-teamed me a lot,” Joe said after Thursday’s practice at the Philips Arena practice court. “I didn’t take advantage of going quick and trying to make plays. I just kind of succumbed to the double-team and was just passing it off.”
Indeed, the film showed a lot of aggressive double-teams thrown at Joe. With Al Horford on the bench with two fouls for most of the first half the Magic seemed to focus a lot of their defense on containing Johnson. In the second half the double-teams continued, but Orlando also got creative with how they used Howard in the middle.
“He’s so athletic and big that he is able to cover a lot of ground out there on the court,” said Joe when asked if there was a way to take advantage of Dwight’s tendancy to ignore his own man and shift toward the ball. “We understand that, so we just gotta try and make it difficult for him.”
With all of the attention Joe is demanding from the Magic defense, he understands that it is not just his scoring that can push the Hawks to victory. Instead, Johnson is focused on “making plays” and “going quick” to take advantage of a shifting defense.
This weekend look for Johnson to avoid the contested fadeaways that he was forced to attempt in Game 2.
As usual, Joe was straight forward when declaring he intentions: “Tomorrow I will be more aggressive.”