The Orlando Magic are down to their final chance to stave off what figures to be a wave of offseason confusion due to of superstar Dwight Howard's murky future. Down 3-1 to a mediocre Hawks team, the Magic, who began the season as championship contenders, must win three straight games to even advance to the second round. They'll get their first chance Tuesday night, as they take on the Hawks in Orlando in Game 5 of their 2011 NBA Playoffs series at 7:30 p.m. on NBATV.
The Magic have been close, but poor shooting has ultimately doomed them. They lost both games in Atlanta by a combined seven points, despite shooting 42 and 39 percent from the field, respectively, and a combined 10-51 from three-point range. Howard is doing his part, averaging 32 points and 17.5 rebounds in the series, but the Hawks have let him be and closed off everyone else nicely. Gilbert Arenas provided a brief spark in Game 4, but it wasn't enough to carry the Magic to victory. Ultimately, someone else needs to step up.
That guy could be Jason Richardson. The Magic's starting shooting guard was suspended for Game 4, along with Hawks' big man Zaza Pachulia. That's not an even trade-off for Orlando, even if Richardson is struggling and Pachulia is a part of the Hawks' group of bigs to try to slow Howard. Having Richardson back may end up being the necessary boost, at least for one game.
As for Atlanta, it needs to continue to get good performances from Al Horford and Joe Johnson, and must hope Jamal Crawford can continue his hot shooting. Getting more from Josh Smith, who committed several errors in the Game 4 win, would help too.