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Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks


After an overtime loss to the New York Knicks, the Orlando Magic will try to get back on track when they take on the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night and what almost certainly will be a first round playoff preview.

These two teams have met three times this season with the Hawks winning twice.

The Hawks defeated the Magic 91-81 behind Al Horford’s 24 points and 11 rebounds on December 20. The Magic were led by Howard’s 19 points and 20 rebounds. It was the first game Gilbert Arenas (10 points), Jason Richardson (nine points) and Hedo Turkoglu (eight points) appeared in for the Magic this season.

The Hawks also defeated the Magic in Orlando on December 6 80-74. Josh Smith had 19 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks while Howard had 14 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

Orlando defeated the Hawks 93-89 in their first meeting back on November 6 despite trailing by 13 in the first half. Dwight Howard had 27 points and 11 rebounds.

The Hawks are 27th in pace (91.7), 20th in offensive rating (103.6) and 15th in defensive efficiency (104.0).

The game will be shown locally on Sun Sports. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen on the radio – in English on AM 580 WDBO and in Spanish on AM 1270 WRLZ.

Tip off from the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST.

The Line: n/a


Atlanta Hawks

Jason Collins
Al Horford
Josh Smith
Joe Johnson*
Kirk Hinrich

Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard
Brandon Bass
Hedo Tukoglu
Jason Richardson
Jameer Nelson

Joe Johnson has been bothered by a thumb injury that has cost him the last game and a half but he is expected to play Wednesday night.

Jameer Nelson (left knee sprain) and Quentin Richardson (back spasms) are listed day-to-day.

Magic general manager Otis Smith said he’d be “shocked” if Nelson didn’t play Wednesday, but Nelson still isn’t sure if he’ll go.

"“I’m not going to say it’s for sure that I’m going to go” play, Nelson said afterward. “I’m going to play it by ear and be smart about it and let my body tell me what to do.”"

Update: Per Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Nelson will play Wednesday night.

J.J. Redick remains out with an abdominal strain. Chris Duhon joins Nelson and Richardson as “day-to-day” after injuring his right thumb against the Knicks Monday night.

The officials will be Bennett Salvatore, Nick Buchert and Pat Fraher.

Of Note: The Hawks have won straight games after previously losing four out five games, dropping them to 42-32, five games behind the Orlando Magic with just eight to play. Atlanta is 2-1 vs Orlando this season but the Magic have won seven of the last 10 meetings. The Magic, who almost certainly face the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs in a few weeks, are 8-1 against the Hawks in the playoffs. Orlando has won four of the last six meetings in Atlanta.

Opponent To Watch: Al Horford, F/C – The Hawks play Horford at center but have started Jason Collins there 26 times this season to give Horford a bit of a break so he isn’t matched up with Dwight Howard. Horford is a very good player but he’s obviously no match for the Magic’s big man. Horford is having the best season of his career (15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.0 blocks per game, plus he’s shooting 56.5% from the field). If Collins (20.7 minutes per game against the Magic this season) and Zaza Pachulia (13.0 minutes per game against the Magic this season) combine to log heavy minutes against the Magic, which will be difficult because they most likely be in foul trouble, Horford is going to be a tough matchup for the Orlando power forwards. He’s averaged 11.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game against the Magic over his career.

What To Watch For: Joe Johson will be back for the Hawks and should provide them with a bit of a scoring lift. As we know, Johnson has really struggled against the Magic. Last season, he shot just 38.1% against the Magic in four regular season meetings. Statistically, the Hawks really look like a team that should be 10 games over .500 – they look more like a a team that should me in the middle of the pack in terms of their efficiency on both ends of the court. This will be a nice game for both teams to get accustomed to all of the new players in the quasi-rivalry before they meet in just a few weeks. The Hawks saw Orlando’s midseason acquisitions just once and it was in their very first game with the team. Orlando has yet to see the Hawks with Kirk Hinrich at the helm.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080’s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). 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).