Magic-Hawks Preview

Atlanta’s success against the Orlando Magic from last season has

already carried over to this one. However, considering their

current state, the Hawks might have a tough time continuing that

run over their rival.

Without star Joe Johnson, the Hawks could find it difficult

trying to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss while looking

for a sixth consecutive home win over the Magic on Thursday

night.

After taking three of four from Orlando during the 2010-11

regular season and winning a first-round playoff matchup in six

games, Atlanta (19-14) edged the Magic 89-87 in overtime on the

road Feb. 10.

The Hawks also have won five straight regular season and playoff

home games against Orlando, though the last four have been decided

by a combined 13 points.

“(Orlando) knows our offensive and our defensive schemes, and we

know their schemes. We just gotta try to outplay them,” said Hawks

forward Josh Smith, who had 23 points and a season-high 19 rebounds

against the Magic earlier this month.

Atlanta might have a more difficult time doing that after

dropping its third in a row and eighth in 11 games, 99-82 to New

York on Wednesday to conclude 1-4 road trip.

Orlando (22-12), meanwhile, won for the 10th time in 13 contests

while shooting 53.6 percent during a 108-91 victory at New Jersey

on Wednesday. Playing well and facing a depleted Atlanta team might

be what the Magic need to turn things around in this series.

With Johnson sitting because of tendinitis in his knee, the

Hawks were held to 35 points in the first half and shot 39.5

percent against the Knicks.

Averaging a team-leading 17.6 points, Johnson will miss this

weekend’s All-Star game in Orlando. Already without fellow All-Star

Al Horford (torn pectoral muscle) for more than a month, Atlanta’s

recent struggles have come even with Johnson in the mix.

The Hawks have averaged 85.8 points on 41.5 percent shooting

while going 3-8 in February. Jeff Teague scored a team-high 18

points and Willie Green added 16 on Wednesday.

“Being as depleted as we were, I still was hoping we could come

out and just put together four solid quarters,” coach Larry Drew

said. “We just didn’t do that.”

Smith, who most in the organization feel was snubbed by the

addition of Boston’s Rajon Rondo as Johnson’s All-Star replacement,

has remained consistent by averaging 18.4 points and 10.9 rebounds

in the last nine games.

The veteran forward has been held to 17 points and 14 boards in

the last two home games – both in the playoffs – versus

Orlando.

Dwight Howard, who remains in Orlando for the time being,

averaged 27.0 points and 15.5 rebounds in the playoff series loss

to Atlanta last season. However, he’s failed to score more than 19

in a contest during the Magic’s four-game regular-season skid to

the Hawks.

Howard, who has asked for a trade as he approaches free agency,

has totaled 48 points and 33 boards in the last two games

overall.

“Right now my only concern is winning games, playing as hard as

I can every night,” Howard said. “That’s the only thing I can

control. I put all the other thoughts aside. The only thing I can

control is what I do on the court.”

Ryan Anderson, who had 14 points and nine rebounds Wednesday for

the Magic, recorded 21 with nine boards against the Hawks earlier

this month.