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
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
“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
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.