The losing streak is at 10. Not any temporal streak. The Magic won Friday night after all.
This is a 10-game losing sterak against Atlanta, a team that has somehow figured out Orlando. The tables have turned in this rivalry. Or perhaps it is just one Playoff team beating a non-Playoff team. The better team just found a way.
Orlando opened up a lead in the first half, but never could pull away. The Hawks got the lead and did not let go. The Magic never lost distance with the Hawks and never got blown out, but they never found their shot either. Not after a hot start.
Good team meets bad team.
The Hawks were certainly the better team, getting the stops, turnovers and shots they needed in a 97-88 win at Philips Arena on Saturday. Those little things are what the Magic still have to learn as a young team.
There were plenty of encouraging moments as there always seem to be with this young Magic team. Orlando got 20 points and eight assists from Beno Udrih, filling in for the first time for the injured Jameer Nelson. Nikola Vucevic returned after a five-game absence to score 17 points and grab 15 rebounds, shaking off any rust he might have had.
The Magic though shot just 39.1 percent from the floor, going through the usual offensive droughts this team has as a young team. They committed 19 turnovers, resulting in 22 Hawks points.
Atlanta is the kind of team that knows how to grind out games like this. Ivan Johnson came in and provided a huge spark wtih 21 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, helping Atlanta keep contact with Orlando leading early in the game. Josh Smith had 21 points and nine rebounds and Devin Harris scored 17 points to go with six assists.
Atlanta shot 43.6 percent from the floor, better than Orlando.
These are the kind of grinding victories that Playoff teams find a way to win. The Magic are not there yet. They will not win many games where they shoot in the low 40s. That kind of commitment on defense comes only with experience.
Orlando hit only 4 of 13 3-pointers and gave up 31 free throws to Atlanta. The Magic could only turn the Hawks' 18 turnovers into 15 points. When they were not getting out on the break like they were in the first quarter, the Magic could not find a way to grind out through the offense.
Thus, another loss to Hawks.