By John Denton
March 30, 2013
ATLANTA -- An Orlando Magic team hoping to ride the momentum of Friday’s defeat of Washington and potentially win consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 19 ran into absolutely the worst possible opponent on Saturday night.
For whatever reason, the Atlanta Hawks – even one without ailing all-star forward Al Horford – continue to have the Magic’s number.
Not only did the Hawks beat the Magic 97-88 Saturday night at Philips Arena, they defeated Orlando for a 10th straight time and swept the season series for a second consecutive season.
And remarkably, the gritty Hawks (41-33) held the Magic (19-55) to fewer than 90 points for a 10th straight game. Orlando hasn’t cracked 90 points and cracked the code to a victory against the Hawks since Nov. 8, 2010.
``It’s just a part of the way that (the Hawks) play with big, strong physical guys, whether it’s Horford or (Zaza) Pachulia or tonight it was Ivan Johnson giving them good minutes,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of his team’s struggles against Atlanta. ``It’s just their style of play. Our defense was pretty good … but you’ve got to score at the same time, which helps.’’
The ugly defeat for the Magic, who were without veteran point guard Jameer Nelson on Saturday because of a sprained ankle, killed the good vibes the team had brought with it following an impressive 97-92 defeat of Washington a night earlier. That meant that Orlando still hasn’t won consecutive games since Dec. 19 – the night that power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis was lost a first time with a shoulder injury.
Tobias Harris, who was coming off stellar performances earlier in the week with 29- and 30-point outings, struggled all night against Atlanta’s Josh Smith and scored only 11 points. He made just five of 18 shots and was whistled for a frustration-filled technical foul in the fourth quarter. His struggles were emblematic of a Magic team that hit just 39.1 percent from the floor, turned the ball over 19 times and missed 11 free throws.
Follow John Denton on Twitter here