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
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
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
Howard, who has asked for a trade as he approaches free agency,
has totaled 48 points and 33 boards in the last two games
“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