Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE
For the 9th time in their last 12 meetings, the Orlando Magic fell to the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, 83-78, looking every bit the part of a team that was ready for the NBA All-Star Break. Reserve guard J.J. Redick led Orlando with 13 points off the bench, while Dwight Howard contributed 12 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, and five blocks in his hometown. Josh Smith scored 22 points and hauled in 12 rebounds for the Hawks, which were without All-Stars at two-guard in Joe Johnson and at center in Al Horford. In addition, reserve guards Willie Green and Jannero Pargo combined for 29 points on 12-of-19 shooting to sink Orlando, which lacked the offensive firepower to stick with Atlanta.
Turnovers told the story Thursday, with Atlanta racing to a 47-30 halftime lead due partially to its converting nine Magic turnovers into 13 points. Orlando was a hot mess in the second period, scoring only 10 points and having fewer field goals (four) than turnovers (six).
But Atlanta got sloppy with the lead in the secnd half, committing unforced error after unforced error, leading to 18 Magic points off 12 turnovers. Eight Orlando players picked up at least one steal after halftime, but that reflects more on the Hawks' focus than it does about Orlando's defense.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Redick tied the score off such a turnover on the first possession of the fourth period, drilling a pull-up triple in transition to even the teams at 58. Green hit a three of his own on the next trip, however, and Orlando never tied or led again.
In some ways, the Hawks' personnel is uniquely suited to give the Magic fits. Point guards Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinrich expertly apply ball pressure to their Magic counterparts, who lack the quickness and handles to shed them effectively. The entire team handles pick-and-rolls well, Smith's hard closeouts on Orlando's jump-shooting forwards disrupts their rhythm, and Zaza Pachulia can ably defend Howard without double-team help. When the Hawks do double-team Howard, they vary their coverage so as to remain unpredictable. Generally speaking, Atlanta's ability to shrink the floor wreaks havoc on Orlando, and forces it to grind out games. The Magic aren't accustomed to playing that style.
Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, and Chris Duhon--the Magic's four starters around Howard--shot 14-of-48 for 34 points and eight turnovers. The Magic need much better production from their supporting cast, and from Richardson and Turkoglu in partcular, in order to challenge Atlanta.
It's understandable, given the nature of this game and the way the series between these teams has gone of late, that the Magic "had a somewhat fiery team meeting" Thursday night, according to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com.
Orlando enters the All-Star break with a 22-13 record, which equates to a 52-win season over 82 games. It's back in action Wednesday on the road against the Washington Wizards.