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.