Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
The Orlando Magic fell victim to an on-fire Atlanta Hawks squad Friday evening, 109-81, for their seventh loss in their last nine games and fourth loss in their last five home games. The defeat dips them to 34-25 on the season and in sole possession of the sixth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta outscored Orlando in every period en route to completing a sweep of the season series. Journeyman combo guard Jannero Pargo scored a game-high 17 points off the Hawks' bench, while Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith contributed 16 apiece for the victors.
Orlando played its fifth game in seven tries without All-Star center Dwight Howard, and Atlanta exploited the Magic's lack of shot-blocking by driving aggressively into their defense. From there, the Hawks managed to score, draw a foul, or find an open shooter beyond the arc. Pargo hit five of Atlanta's season-high-tying fourteen three-pointers, and the Hawks shot 62.9 percent inside the painted area.
And as Howard might miss the rest of the regular season due to a herniated disc in his back, losses like this one may become the norm for Orlando. Tonight's wasn't a question of effort, but rather of ability: Howard is the lone Magic player who can draw two defenders, and he anchors their defense as well. Without him, Orlando is largely bereft of talent, and even mid-tier teams like the Hawks will crush it while he's out.
|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.
The Magic managed to keep the score fairly close in the first quarter, down in the five-to-seven-point neighborhood, until the period's closing minutes. On their final four possessions, the Magic committed two turnovers and Jameer Nelson missed two layups. Each of those empty trips resulted in an Atlanta score on the visitors' ensuing possession, culminating with a three-pointer by Kirk Hinrich to put Orlando down 13 just before the horn. The deficit ballooned to as large as 20 points in the second, with the hopeless Magic shooting 7-of-22 frmo the floor and committing seven turnovers.
With Howard, the Magic might have at least managed to make this game interesting. But without him, the only compelling question was how long it'd take for the Hawks to put them away comfortably.