Magic-Hawks Preview

The Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks will likely be first-round

playoff foes, but each team could look much different for that

series than in their final regular season meeting.

The Hawks may be without leading scorer Joe Johnson for a second

consecutive game Wednesday night when they look to win their third

straight over the injury-plagued Magic at Philips Arena.

Orlando (47-27) and Atlanta (42-32) are set up to meet in the

first round of the playoffs, sitting comfortably as the Eastern

Conference’s fourth and fifth seeds, respectively. The Hawks have

won the last two meetings after dropping the first and now look to

win the season series for the first time since 2006-07.

Each club is struggling to stay healthy. While Magic guards

Jameer Nelson (knee), Quentin Richardson (back) and Chris Duhon

(thumb) are all day-to-day, J.J. Redick (abdomen) will miss his

10th straight game Wednesday. Atlanta lost Johnson to a sprained

thumb in Saturday’s win over New Jersey and he’s day-to-day.

The Hawks managed to beat the league’s worst team without

Johnson on Sunday, defeating Cleveland 99-83. Marvin Williams had a

season-high 31 points while Al Horford had 20 points and 10

rebounds.

Atlanta went 5-4 without Johnson when he was sidelined by an

elbow injury in December.

“It was something we had to learn to do,” Williams said of

Johnson’s absence. “The guy doesn’t miss many games. We knew what

we had to do. Everyone had to chip in a little more.”

The Magic weren’t as fortunate in their last game without some

key contributors. Orlando’s five-game winning streak was snapped by

a 113-106 overtime loss at New York on Monday.

Besides the injured players, Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and

Earl Clark fouled out. Howard, who had 29 points and 18 rebounds,

picked up his 17th technical foul, moving him one away from another

one-game suspension.

“It was a wild, wild game, but we still had a chance to win it

if a few things had gone the other way,” Howard told the Magic’s

official website. “It’s an intense game out there and I’m emotional

sometimes. My teammates know what is going on, but we’ll just move

on.”

Despite scoring only four points in the first half, Howard had

another big game on the day he was named Eastern Conference player

of the week. He is averaging 26.3 points on 65.8 percent shooting

to go with 16.7 rebounds over the last six games.

With injuries hurting their depth, the Magic have been helped by

improved play from Turkoglu, averaging 18.0 points the last three

games. Gilbert Arenas, meanwhile, made his first start in place of

Nelson on Monday and played a season-high 43 minutes, finishing

with nine points, a season-high 10 rebounds and five assists.

“It’s not easy when four of your five starters are having to

play 41-plus minutes, we have injuries and we’re having to move

guys in and out just to try and stay fresh,” forward Ryan Anderson

said. “But regardless of everything that’s happened this season

we’ve been relentless.”

Howard had 27 points in Orlando’s win over the Hawks on Nov. 8,

but in the two losses to Atlanta he’s averaged 16.5.