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Hawks 103, Magic 100: Orlando can't overcome Atlanta's balanced offense in back-and-forth contest

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Atlanta's ability to hit threes was ultimately Orlando's undoing.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

In what was one of the most evenly contested basketball games that you'll see this year, the Orlando Magic were unable to take down the Atlanta Hawks, falling 103-100 to their Southeast Division rivals. Orlando was led by Nikola Vucevic, who went for 20 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists on the evening. Evan Fournier put up 17 points on eight shots, while Elfrid Payton went for 14 points with six assists and five steals.

The Magic were able to win the first quarter behind eight forced turnovers, some stellar work on the defensive end that prevented the Hawks from bombing away from downtown, and a balanced effort on the offensive side of the ball in which eight players scored a bucket. Save for a 19-second stretch in the middle of the period, Orlando didn't fall behind once in the quarter.

But the balanced scoring was the most impressive part of the frame. Vucevic led all of the team's scorers with six points, but he was joined on the stat sheet by Payton, Fournier, Andrew Nicholson, Tobias Harris, Channing Frye, Mario Hezonja, and Victor Oladipo. It was a great effort on the offensive end, even though the team turned the ball over five times, as the team shot 63.2 percent from the field en route to a 29-25 lead at the quarter's end.

The second quarter wasn't nearly as cohesive from the Magic. After scoring the first two points in the frame, Orlando went cold from the field and Atlanta caught fire, going on a 14-0 run that spanned more than five minutes. By the time that ended, the Magic saw their six point lead turn into an eight point deficit. The Hawks managed to outscore Orlando 27-13 in the quarter, and went into halftime with a 52-42 lead. Both Vucevic and Nicholson scored 10 points in the half.

Orlando made things really, really interesting in the third quarter. Thanks to a 36(!!!) point frame, which featured a 14-0 run midway through the third and four quick points over the final 24 seconds, the Magic were actually able to take a 78-77 into the fourth quarter. The man of the quarter was Fournier, who dropped 15 in the frame to give himself 17 through three. Frye was also impressive, as he added eight points in the quarter.

While the Magic weren't able to hold onto that lead, the fourth quarter was filled with entertaining, back-and-forth basketball. Surprisingly enough, the main star for the Magic in the quarter was Jason Smith, who managed to get all 10 of his points on the night in a 5:14 stretch to start off the frame. The two teams kept going shot for shot, but the dagger came with 43 seconds remaining, when Kyle Korver was left wide open in the left corner and buried the three that gave the Hawks a lead it would not relinquish.

Ultimately, Orlando just couldn't keep up with Atlanta's three-point shooting. Despite clamping down on the Hawks in the first quarter, Atlanta managed to go 11-for-22 from downtown, whereas Orlando went 4-for-12 from three. The biggest thorn in Scott Skiles' side, understandably, was Korver, who hit six of his eight attempts from behind the arc en route to 19 points on the night. Mike Scott also had a good three-point shooting night, going 3-for-5.

With the loss, Orlando fell to 15-12 on the year. The team will hop onto a plane and get ready for a road game on the second night of a back-to-back, as it will take on the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. The game is scheduled to tip off on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. EST.