“Inconsistency” has been the running theme of the Magic’s season, so when they completed their third straight game this week holding opponents under 100 points, it was tempting to wonder if they’d turned a corner defensively. Unfortunately, Saturday’s game versus the Hawks shattered any illusions that the Magic were about to put together a season-saving run, as Orlando barely competed in a 113-86 loss in Atlanta. Orlando shot just 35% on the night, while allowing Atlanta to hit over 52% of theirs. Aaron Gordon was the Magic’s only efficient scorer, getting 16 points on 5-10 shooting. Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. each scored 21 for the Hawks.
Right from the get-go, Hardaway Jr. picked up where he left off from his outrageous performance against the Rockets, scoring the first two baskets going right at the rim, and assisting on the next one. That set the tone for the whole night, as Atlanta attacked the rim and found open 3-pointers over and over again. It took just 4 and a half minutes for them to find a 9-point lead, and a 13-point lead about 4 minutes after that. If it wasn’t Hardaway attacking the paint, it was Millsap doing just the same, leading the Hawks with 10 points early. For the Magic, Gordon was the only one who could get anything going early, earning 8 points thanks to 4-4 shooting from the foul line. The Magic’s 7-8 free throw shooting was the only thing that kept them within a reasonable range, but they still found themselves in a 35-24 hole.
The second quarter was more or less a repeat of the first, minus Orlando’s free throws, cementing their offensive mediocrity. Atlanta doubled up their score in the quarter, beating them 30-15 and putting the game effectively out of reach before halftime. Orlando shot a paltry 32.5% the first half. Serge Ibaka was the biggest offender, going just 2-9 from the field, and Evan Fournier looked as rusty as he has since coming back from injury, going 0-3, his only points coming at the line. The Hawks were the polar opposite, hitting 66% of their shots, including half their 14 3-point attempts. Four players scored in double digits for Atlanta, led by Millsap’s 14, while Gordon was the Magic’s only double-digit scorer with 11. Orlando trailed 65-39 at halftime.
The second half did little to change the status quo. In fact, the third quarter was even, and the second held only a 1-point margin, but it was clear the Hawks had eased off the gas, especially in the second quarter when they let the Magic get to the rim without much resistance. The Magic briefly looked like they were going to put together a comeback during that period, using a 9-2 run at the start of the second half to get the lead down to 19, but the Hawks reasserted themselves, and the game was never in doubt from that point. The fourth was notable for the return of Mario Hezonja to the court after 3 DNPs (scoring 4 points and getting 3 rebounds), but otherwise there was little else for Magic fans to be interested in at the end of another disappointing blowout.