Magic Frustrated By Hawks, Fall 85-82


The Orlando Magic staged another late comeback but it wasn’t enough as they fell to the Atlanta Hawks 85-82 Wednesday night. Jameer Nelson led the Magic with 20 points while Josh Smith led all scorers with 26.

Both the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks got off to a hot start in what would become a very well-played and entertaining opening period. Despite Dwight Howard picking up two fouls in the first four minutes, the Magic were able to score with the Hawks. The two teams combined to shoot 22-of-39 from the field (Atlanta 11-of-19, Orlando 11-of-20) and the Hawks led 25-24. Dwight Howard returned to the game in the second quarter and Orlando’s defense benefited. The Hawks couldn’t and shot just 8-of-19 in the second quarter, which still left them at 50.0% for the half. Outside of a quick outburst from Howard, Orlando couldn’t do much on the offensive end, shooting just 6-of-18 from the field. Orlando trailed 46-43 at the half.

The Magic used a 5-0 spurt early in the second half to tie the game but Atlanta immediately took the lead back on a Josh Smith 3-pointer. Orlando again tied it at 55 and 57 but the Hawks hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead back to six. The Hawks got a buzzer-beating jumper off of an offensive rebound by Zaza Puchulia of all people to push the lead to eight. The Magic score the first five points of the fourth quarter and had the lead down to just thee on Ryan Anderson’s second consecutive 3-pointer with 7:48 to go but the Hawks answered by reeling off the next five points. They had an eight-point lead with 3:48 to go when the Magic went on an 8-0 run capped by a Nelson layup. Atlanta answered with a Joe Johnson jumper and after a Nelson miss, Johnson couldn’t connect, leaving the Magic with the ball, down two with 13.0 seconds to play. Nelson missed a tough floater and the Magic fouled Jason Collins with 5.7 seconds to go. Collins made one of the two free throws. The Magic inbounded to Jason Richardson, who had to give it up to Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu got didn’t get a good look and the Hawks came away with an 85-82 victory.

After the jump, you can more thoughts, observations and quotes from the game.

It seems clear the Hawks are no longer intimidated by the Magic and clearly won’t be the same kind of pushover they were during the playoffs last season. Those games were virtually over before they started. Besides the obvious mismatch in Howard, Orlando could exploit the Atlanta defense in several other ways (like Rashard Lewis’ shooting ability).

After the game, Stan Van Gundy said the Hawks are “better than us right now.”

With that being said, the Magic defense did a good job. They forced Josh Smith and his teammates into difficult shots.  Smith scored 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting. His 18 shots consisted mostly of long jumpers (including going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc) and the Magic will usually be happy to let the inconsistent Smith sit back and take those types of shots.

Once again, the Hawks defended the 3-point line well. The Magic were just 7-of-23 (30.7%) from beyond the arc. The Magic missed some good looks that usually go down but the Hawks have been doing a better job of defending the three this season. The Magic haven’t been very effective from beyond the arc in any game against Atlanta this season.

On the very last play, Van Gundy said the Magic simply “didn’t execute,” explaining there was “supposed to be another screen and we didn’t set it.”

I thought Stan Van Gundy made the right move in letting Nelson try that floater down the stretch. If Nelson misses that shot anywhere else, Howard is in great position to get the rebound.

Speaking of Howard, he had another tough night against the Hawks. They’ve been throwing all of their bigs (Jason Collins, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia and even Etan Thomas) at him to basically beat him and try to bait him into fouls. It worked. Howard was limited to 32 minutes because of foul trouble and scored just 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He had 13 rebounds and blocked one shot, all below his season averages.

Van Gundy said it was the best Howard has been defended all season.

Jameer Nelson returned and looked pretty good. He certainly had his shot (20 points on 9-of-17 shooting) but he appeared to be over dribbling on several occasions. He needs to get back up to speed in that department. I’m assuming he’ll have that fixed by Friday’s game against Charlotte.

Hedo Turkoglu started with a bang (8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in the first quarter). He was aggressive and did a good job of getting his teammates involved. I liked the way Orlando let Turkoglu be the primary ball handler while Nelson was red hot from the outside. That’s a great, versatile weapon to have. Turkoglu finished with 17 points (7-of-11 shooting), 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.

Ryan Anderson hit a couple of big 3’s and scored 13 points but no other member of the bench mob scored.

Next Up: The Magic will host the Charlotte Bobcats Friday night.

Final Thought: The Hawks will provide a much stiffer test in the postseason this year but Magic fans shouldn’t panic because Orlando lost the season series.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080’s Magic Insider ( Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).