Magic Top Hawks, Reclaim Division Lead


The Magic played the Hawks for the third time this season and for the third time this season they came away with a decisive victory. Orlando blew the game open in the second half and beat the Hawks 104-86, taking back the Southeast division lead in the process. Dwight Howard had a monster game – 31 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 19 points.

A sick Stan Van Gundy was pleased with the win.

"“I thought other than the first few minutes of the game, obviously, we were pretty good and I thought the second half was probably our most consistent half in a long time.”"

The Magic got off to a rough start. They missed some easy looks at the basket, including back-to-back layups by Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. The Hawks took advantage of Orlando’s early mistakes and grabbed a 16-6 lead. Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy called a timeout and that seemed to wake the team up. The Magic scored the next 11 points and ended the quarter on a 15-2 run. Neither team shot the ball well, Orlando shot 38.9% and Atlanta shot 34.8% but the Magic hit five free throws and scored nine points off of six Atlanta turnovers.

Both teams shot the ball much better in the second half. Orland was 11-of-21 from the field and the Hawks went 10-of-18 from the field. Orlando increased their lead to seven and it looked like they had a chance to pull away but after Ryan Anderson missed a three-pointer, the Hawks were able to get back in the game, cutting it to two. With 1.9 seconds, the Hawks had a foul to give and decided to use it. Jameer Nelson quickly realized this and threw up a prayer from just passed half court. Nelson sank all three free throws and gave the Magic a 49-44 lead.

Orlando made a great effort to get the ball to Dwight Howard in the third quarter and it paid off. Howard scored 10 third quarter points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Magic outscored the Hawks 28-19 in the period. The Hawks shot just 6-of-21 in the period and the Magic shot 10-of-18. Orlando outrebounded the Hawks 14- 8. The Magic’s lead grew to as large as 18 but the Hawks went on a 7-1 run to cut it 12 before Vince Carter hit a late, long jumper giving the Magic a 14-point lead.

The Hawks forced a couple of turnovers and cut the lead back to 81-72 on a Joe Johnson three-pointer just over three minutes into the period. The Magic countered with a 14-5 run that ended any chance at a Hawks comeback and the Magic came away with a 104-86 victory.


Orlando had one of their best shooting nights of the season. They weren’t very good from the three point line (7-of-23) and were just okay from the free throw line (19-of-27), but they had an excellent night shooting two point shots. They were 32-of-49 (65.3%) from two and shot an effective field goal percentage of 59.0%.

Dwight Howard led the way with 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Howard also shot 11-of-18 from the foul line. Howard got pretty much anything he wanted offensively and shut down his opposition. All-Star Al Horford scored just 4 points on 2-of-6 shooting and grabbed 4 rebounds. He was limited to just 23 minutes because of his ineffective play against Howard. Zaza Pachulia took his turn on Howard and Howard had no problem backing him down. Howard allowed Atlanta’s Centers to score just 4 points and Power Forward Josh Smith scored just 9 points. Van Gundy was more than pleased with Howard’s play.

"“I thought just his presence and will like you said. They were very aware of him every time they went to the basket. He was just tremendous. He dominated the game all the way through. So, a tremendous effort from him.”"

Orlando’s defense was even better. They held the league’s third most efficient offense to just 86 points on 39.5% shooting and did a tremendous job on Atlanta’s perimeter players. Joe Johnson had his best game against the Magic this season but still finished with just 19 points – Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes were all over him all night. Jamal Crawford scored 15 points but was just 4-of-12 from the field. Marvin Williams had 7 points on 3-of-9 shooting and Mike Bibby had just 10 points and three assists.

Orlando had four players in double figures and got great production from their bench, led by Ryan Anderson’s 16 points and 4 rebounds. Anderson, with extended time, once again showed how good of an all around game he has.

Van Gundy elaborated.

"“Ryan had his game probably since at least since he was starting early in the year. I mean big baskets. People look at his shooting, but a lot of those guys stretch the floor for me and that’s about all they do. You look at Ryan, he scores driving the ball to the basket, he scores down in the post, he scores on offensive rebounds when they were switching.”"

When asked about the Magic’s recent domination of the Hawks, Van Gundy said he didn’t believe in having a team’s number in the regular season because the games are so spread out.

Rashard Lewis on the other hand, said that the Hawks had “no one to match up with Dwight.”

Game Notes:

  • The Magic now lead the Southeast Division by one-half game.
  • The Magic got an efficient game from Jameer Nelson – 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 5 assists and just 2 turnovers.
  • Rashard Lewis continued his improved play. He scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting and did a good job on All-Star snub Josh Smith.
  • J.J. Redick had a career-high 7 assists.
  • Vince Carter had just 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting.
  • If the Magic win Sunday night, Van Gundy will be the Eastern Conference All-Star team’s Head Coach.

Next Up: The Magic must turn right around and play the Pistons in Detroit Sunday at 6:00 pm EST.

Final Thought: Van Gundy wouldn’t say the Magic turned a corner, but it’s obvious that they are playing much better basketball.

(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.)