Hawks-Magic Preview

The Atlanta Hawks have had only one winning streak in 2013 but
appear to have a good chance at another one given their recent
dominance of the woeful Orlando Magic.

The Magic, though, will be seeking back-to-back wins for the
first time in nearly two months as they host the Hawks on Wednesday
night.

Atlanta’s lone win streak since the end of December was a string
of three victories Jan. 21-25. That lack of consistency helped fuel
rumors that the Hawks (28-22) were looking to deal leading scorer
Josh Smith.

Smith and his teammates managed to put that talk aside Monday
and hold on for a 105-101 victory in Dallas. Atlanta had dropped
four of six overall and eight of nine on the road.

“Any time you go on the road and get a win, it’s always big,”
coach Larry Drew said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, as most teams
do. But we have not fragmented when that has happened.”

Smith had a team-best 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
Over the past nine games, he’s averaged 20.3 points, 10.3 boards
and 5.2 assists – all well above his season marks.

“I’m just trying to focus on getting better as an individual on
the court,” Smith said. “As long as I’m with the Atlanta Hawks, I
can only focus on how to make this team better.”

Smith averaged 11.0 points on 9-of-24 shooting in two meetings
with the Magic (15-36) this season, but Atlanta won both while
limiting Orlando to an average of 76.0 points.

The Hawks have won six straight against the Magic, a streak
which began with the decisive Game 6 of the teams’ opening-round
playoff series in 2011. Atlanta has won the last eight
regular-season meetings, holding Orlando to 79.4 points per game on
38.7 percent shooting.

This time, the Hawks will face a Magic team coming off the end
of a 12-game skid, its longest in nine seasons. Orlando allowed a
13-point lead in the third quarter get cut to four early in the
fourth Sunday but hung on for a 110-104 home victory over
Portland.

“When teams made runs over the last X-amount of games, we kind
of shut down a little bit,” said Jameer Nelson, who had a
career-high 15 assists and 10 points. “Tonight we didn’t, we were
up and they cut it to three or four. We just kept playing our
game.”

J.J. Redick led the way with 22 points in his return from a sore
right shoulder. Nikola Vucevic had 17 points and 19 rebounds – his
second-highest total over two NBA seasons – for his Eastern
Conference-best 29th double-double.

It was Orlando’s third victory in 26 games since its last
winning streak, a season-best four-game run Dec. 14-19.

“You always want to see the fruits of your labor and in this
business it’s wins and losses and it’s just good for the guys’
psyche overall,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “But we’ve stayed firm
in our approach and guys have been unbelievable throughout this
process.

“I think they see their hard work and the lessons that they’re
learning along the way, they’ll add up for us.”

Nelson has 28 assists over the past two games but has totaled
three in two meetings with Atlanta this season.