Atlanta Hawks @ Orlando Magic

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Orlando got arguably their biggest win of the season when they came back from a 16-point third quarter deficit to defeat the Boston Celtics 96-94 on Thursday night. That is quite the feat but it won’t intimidate Orlando’s opponent Saturday night – the Atlanta Hawks, who beat Boston 100-91 Friday night and completed a season sweep of the Celtics. The Hawks match up very well with the Celtics but the same cannot be said about the way they match up with the Magic. Orlando beat Atlanta 93-76 on Thanksgiving in Atlanta and blew out the Hawks 113-81 exactly three weeks ago. The Magic will look to improve to 3-0 against the Hawks when they host Atlanta Saturday night.

The Magic, 30-16, are the two-time defending Southeast Division champions but trail the Atlanta Hawks, 30-15, by one-half game in the division this season. Both teams have been playing well as of late. The Hawks have won nine of their last 12 games. The Magic have won four of their last five. The Hawks are 11-10 away from home and the Magic are 17-4 on their home floor.

Tip-off from the Am is set for 7:00 pm EST and you can watch the game on Sun Sports. The game will also be aired nationally on NBA TV. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally on WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

The Line: Orlando – 5.5

Starters:

Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson

Atlanta Hawks

Al Horford
Josh Smith
Marvin Williams
Joe Johnson
Mike Bibby

The Magic, who are shooting just 45.5% from the field this season, are shooting 48.1% on the season, but have shot an effective field goal percentage of 54.9% (they are 22-of-59 from downtown against the Hawks.

Orlando has dominated the glass in two games against Atlanta this season. The Magic have grabbed 98 rebounds in those two meetings while the Hawks have grabbed just 76.

Orlando’s defense has been excellent against the high-powered Hawks. Atlanta is scoring 102.6 points per game and has the third most efficient offensive in the entire league, but despite all of their success on offense, the Hawks have not been able to get anything going against the Magic this season. The Hawks are shooting just 39.3% against the Magic this season. In two games against the Magic, Jamal Crawford is 8-of-27, Joe Johnson is 11-of-30 and Josh Smith is 11-of-30. The Hawks are averaging just 78.5 points per game against the Magic this season.

Defensively, it hasn’t been as good for the Hawks, but they have still been solid. They rank 13th in defensive efficiency and give up 97.2 points per game, but outside of one quarter, the Magic had not had much trouble scoring on the Hawks.

No one player has done it for the Magic against the Hawks this season. They have had very balanced efforts against the Hawks. On Thanksgiving, Orlando got 22 points from Dwight Howard, and 21 points from Vince Carter and a surprising 17 points from Anthony Johnson. In their second meeting, Orlando, playing without Vince Carter, had seven players score in double figures.

The Magic, who have been plagued by turnovers, haven’t been too bad against the Hawks. They’ve had 12 turnovers in each game and forced the Hawks into 29 total turnovers.

As long as the Magic come out with good effort, they should be able to get a win. Not only do they match up well with the Hawks, but the Hawks had to play Boston on Friday night. When you play the most physical team in the league on Friday night, it’s quite a tall order to head to Orlando and face the Magic on the very next night.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)