Brett Davis/USA TODAY
The euphoria, if you can call it that, of a 3-2 start is beginning to subside. Two similar performances have the Magic still figuring out who they are. Both the loss to the Celtics and Saturday's 104-94 loss to the Hawks showed the good in so many ways and the bad in so many ways of this Magic squad.
Atlanta used a crushing 10-0 run in the fourth quarter after Orlando took a one-point lead on an Arron Afflalo 3-pointer. Turnovers, missed free throws and transition buckets became the self-inflicted wounds that enabled the Hawks to turn a closely contested game into something of a rout.
The Hawks turned 18 Magic turnovers into 13 points. The 13 points seemed to come at critical times. Further, Atlanta had 13 fast break points to Orlando's four. The Hawks controlled the pace, and thus controlled the flow of the game.
Orlando seemed to be fighting an uphill battle all game. They held the lead briefly in the first quarter and then briefly in the fourth quarter. The Hawks expanded a one-point lead to 17 points early in the third quarter. This was not a deficit the Magic could not make up, but they were struggling to crack the Hawks defense and struggling to find points themselves.
The Magic struggled to find their rhythm. The turnovers late — five of the 18 occurred in the fourth quarter — did not help when the game really mattered. But Orlando seemed relegated to taking jumpers, unable to get much going toward the rim or facing Al Horford's long arms and shot blocking when they did.
The Magic shot 46.3 percent from the floor. They struggled to get the ball into Nikola Vucevic and run their offense through the post as they had so successfully to this point in the season. Vucevic was a cold 3 for 10 as he struggled dealing with Horford's length and the double teams Atlanta sent his way. It appears Vucevic is beginning to get the opponent's respect when he has the ball.
With that Orlando took a bit too many jumpers. The 3-pointer was falling when the offense was flowing, but the mid-range game adn the dribble penetrations were not getting the job done. Atlanta had six blocks, four coming from Al Horford.
That did not completely stop the Magic though.
Arron Afflalo scored 21 points and dished out another seven assists as he continued to prove he can be an efficient scorer. He did much of his work in the mid-post and coming off screens for catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. He made eight of his 16 shots and three of his six 3-pointers. A solid nigth from Afflalo.
Andrew Nicholson also had some great moments. He was a big part of the Magic's comeback from the 17-point deficit in the third quarter. Nicholson displayed his feathery touch around the rim and his newfound rebounding skills. Nicholson finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
Ultimately though, the Hawks had the formula to win the game. They were the more consistent team throughout and cracked the Magic's defense early. Atlanta attacked the basket using the pick and roll and the fast break. Orlando played great in short flashes. But not for the entire game.
Orlando had the same self-inflicted wounds that cost them the game Friday night against Boston. The Magic can look at themselves in the mirror for this loss to the Hawks.