Denton's Pregame Report: Dec. 12

By John Denton
December 12, 2012

ORLANDO – Fresh off an impressive road trip and back at the Amway Center for the first time in 12 days, the Orlando Magic are eager end a dry spell against a Southeast Division rival tonight.

The Magic (8-12) have lost seven games in a row against the Atlanta Hawks (12-6) over the past three seasons. Not so long ago, it was the Magic who had the upper hand over the Hawks while winning seven of eight regular-season meetings from Jan. of 2009 to Nov. of 2010.

Orlando and Atlanta tip off just after 7 p.m. tonight at the Amway Center.

The Hawks have been one of the NBA’s biggest surprise teams this season despite trading away star guard Joe Johnson in the offseason. They beat the Magic 81-72 on Nov. 19 in Atlanta. Some of the long-time Magic players are tired of losing to the Hawks and are eager to regain the upper hand in the rivalry.

``It’s important for us to win the game tonight and to play well,’’ Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. ``We’ve been making some strides over the last few weeks in becoming a better team and doing things in areas where we have been struggling. We still have to clean up some things, but this will be a good test for us.’’

The Magic are hoping to use the momentum provided by a 3-2 trip to the West Coast last week. Orlando stunned the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors at the beginning of the trip and pulled away from the Phoenix Suns in the finale of the nine-day, five-game trip. Even in their losses – to Utah and Sacramento – the Magic led both games in the fourth quarter and could have won, showing signs of their immense progress over the past couple of weeks.

``It was really big for us to go out there and get three wins and grow as a team,’’ said Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who will have a key matchup tonight against Atlanta’s Al Horford. ``Mentally, to win on the road for a young team it builds character. Now, coming back home will just help us. I think we grew a lot in terms of chemistry and learning how we want to play Orlando Magic basketball.’’

With four home games in the next five games, the Magic are hoping to improve their play at the Amway Center. Orlando is just 4-5 at home this season, but part of the issue is that it has played some of the toughest teams in the league at the Amway Center. Brooklyn (twice), New York, San Antonio and Boston have won in Orlando, and the Magic are ready to reverse that trend tonight against the Hawks.

``It’s always good to be home and get back to your territory, but we have to win some ball games here. It was good to win away and know that we can compete on the road, but it’s time to defend home court.’’

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