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Atlanta Hawks 98, Orlando Magic 87

Keyon Dooling of the Orlando Magic shoots a layup against Lorenzen Wright of the Atlanta Hawks
It was that kind of night for Keyon Dooling and his Magic teammates as Orlando fell to Atlanta, 98-87.
Photo by John Raoux, the Associated Press.

The Magic showed no signs of snapping out of their funk last night, falling to yet another .500 team at home as the Hawks won, 98-87. Here's the boxscore.

The team had the dubious honor of leading off Basketbawful's daily "Worst of the Night" post. He says it better than I ever could:

Orlando Magic: Okay, let me get this straight. The Magic broke out of the gates at 16-4 -- which included an astounding road record of 11-2 -- then lost back-to-back home games to the Pacers and Hawks? Stunning. And make no mistake about it, this was a team loss. As a unit, the Magic shot 39 percent from the field (29-73), missed 20 three-pointers, bricked 12 freethrows, and had more turnovers (19) than assists (18). Jameer Nelson shot 2-for-8; Dwight Howard hit only 6 of his 14 foul shots and committed 5 turnovers; 10 of Rashard Lewis' 13 shots were three-pointers, and he missed 7 of them; Brian Cook submitted a stat line of 4 minutes, 1 turnover, and 2 personal fouls; and finally, Pat Garrity and J.J. Redick didn't get off the bench. Only Hedo Turkoglu -- 22 points (7-15), 7 rebounds, 5 assists -- gets a free pass tonight. To top it off, Rashard Lewis showed the kind of fighting spirit for which he was infamous in Seattle when he said: "It's frustrating, of course, but it's not the end of the world." Mind you, this is the same guy that sat out three and a half games of the 2005 Western Conference Semifinals with a sprained left big toe (as Craig over at The Association likes to point out).

We simply had no fire or intensity tonight. For the second game in a row, it appeared as though the team were still being coached by Brian Hill. As Brian Schmitz observed, last night's game "brought to mind problems leading to last season's meltdown: stagnant offense, too many turnovers, poor free-throw shooting." John Denton expressed a similar sentiment: "The Magic shot a season-worst 39.7 percent from the floor, kicked the ball away 19 times and generally got outhustled by the more aggressive Hawks."

And stagnant the offense was. The offensive output of 87 points was the second-lowest showing of the season, and certainly the least efficient. Even when the Magic only needed 85 points to squeak past Portland, they did so with an Offensive Rating of 99; well below-average, to be sure, but last night's offensive rating was 95.2, and for much of the game it was in the high 80s. To put that into perspective, the Chicago Bulls are the league's least efficient offense, and we would have made even them look good. How embarrassing.

On top of all that, the old point guard controversy has reared its ugly head once more. Some Magic fans want Carlos Arroyo to get the nod over Jameer Nelson because Nelson has played erratically lately. Last night's game illustrates that: Nelson had a +/- of minus-14, whereas Arroyo's was simply minus-1. Fair enough, but the Magic are still a better offensive team when Nelson is on the floor. To date, the Magic have an offensive rating of 109.8 when Nelson is on the floor, compared to 104.1 for Arroyo. Perhaps Arroyo's numbers would be better if he had the chance to play with the starting unit, but the fact is, there's no need to panic by making a lineup change. Nelson did his job inasmuch as he found open shooters; they just missed their shots. That's not his fault. If we put up an oh-for this week, losing to Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Memphis in its remaining games, then we'll talk about switching up the starting lineup. For now, I'm content with agreeing with Brian Schmitz: the Magic's recent string of adversity is "more of a speed bump than a slump."

Bottom line: there's no shame in losing to a scrappy, young, .500 team, but there is shame in doing so on your home floor and not even putting up a fight.