FINAL: ATLANTA HAWKS 85, ORLANDO MAGIC 82


GameNight Specifics
NBA Coverage: Game Info
Date: Wednesday, March 30
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Philips Arena (ATLANTA, GA)
Radio: AM 580 WDBO, AM 1270 WRLZ
Television: Sun Sports



PROJECTED MATCHUPS

LINEUPS MAY CHANGE BY GAME TIME


TEAM
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
MAGIC
Jameer Nelson

Jason Richardson

Dwight Howard

Brandon Bass

Hedo Turkoglu

Ryan Anderson

Gilbert Arenas
HAWKS
Kirk Hinrich

Joe Johnson

Jason Collins

Al Horford

Josh Smith

Jamal Crawford

Marvin Williams





















GAME RECAP


ATLANTA (AP) -- Dwight Howard kept trying to muscle his way into the lane.

Jason Collins wouldn't back down, providing hope that Atlanta will fare a lot better if the Hawks get their expected rematch with Orlando in the playoffs.

Joe Johnson's floating one-hander in the lane put Atlanta ahead with 55.4 seconds remaining, Jameer Nelson missed two chances to tie it for the Magic, and the Hawks escaped with an 85-82 victory Wednesday night.

Josh Smith led the Hawks with 26 points, and Johnson added 18. But a guy who had only three points and five rebounds might have done the best work of the night.

Collins went body-to-body with Howard in a bruising matchup, helping limit the Orlando star to 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

"I was just trying to play physical with him," Collins said. "I try to eye him up when he crosses halfcourt. I want to meet him early, before he gets close to the basket."

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy was impressed.

"That's the best defense I've seen all year on Dwight," Van Gundy said. "Against Collins, he didn't get a lot of good shots. I thought he did a great job on him. He's big and physical. He doesn't give you anything easy. Dwight had trouble getting good, on-balance shots."

Nelson, who paced Orlando with 20 points, missed a jumper with 38 seconds remaining, then clanked one off the side of the rim on a drive with 6 seconds left.

Collins grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled. He missed the first but swished the second, forcing the Magic to look for a 3 on their final possession. The best they could do was a long, turnaround jumper by Hedo Turkoglu that sailed over the rim.

The Hawks won their third in a row and took the season series 3-1, distancing themselves from a dismal stretch in which they lost 14 of 21 games.

They'll likely face Orlando again in a couple of weeks. The Magic seem assured of the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Hawks are headed for the fifth seed.

Last year, the teams met in the second round of the postseason, which turned into a monumental mismatch. Orlando won four straight by an average margin of 25 points - the most lopsided sweep in NBA history.

With that in mind, the Hawks wanted to show they could be more competitive with the Magic this time around. They sure did it during the regular season, holding the Magic to 38 percent shooting in the four games.

"It's the regular season. The postseason is totally different," Smith said. "I don't know if we're sending a message, but we've got to let teams know we're coming to play."

Turkoglu also scored 17 for the Magic, who were off their game after Howard picked up two fouls in the first 4 minutes.

"Things are definitely hard for us when Dwight gets in foul trouble," Nelson said. "He's who we are. We play through him. Offensive and defensively, he's our guy."

Howard picked up his fourth foul with over 8 minutes remaining in the third quarter, whistled for knocking down Smith going for a rebound. The big man didn't come out of the game immediately, and the Hawks felt he should have been called for his fifth foul less than a minute later.

Howard backed into the lane looking for a pass, smashing a shoulder into Collins' chest to gain position right under the basket. Nothing was called, the ball arrived and Collins had no choice but to wrap up Howard with a partial bear hug. He then turned to the officials with a look of disgust, while Hawks coach Larry Drew sprung off the bench.

"You can't let him do that," Drew screamed.

But the Hawks ended the period on a high. Jamal Crawford saved an errant pass and Zaza Pachulia hit a turnaround jumper just ahead of the buzzer after pulling down an offensive rebound. Pachulia chest-bumped Smith as he bounced off the court, having given Atlanta a 69-61 lead.

Drew hopes his up-and-down team - the Hawks already have more 20-point losses than any winning team in NBA history - is finding itself at just the right time. This is Atlanta's first three-game winning streak since Feb. 2-5. "I feel real good about the direction we're going," he said. "March has not been good to us. But we seem to have weathered the storm."

Notes: Magic F Quentin Richardson missed his third straight game with back spasms. ... The Magic have talked about bringing in another point guard if Chris Duhon's ailing right thumb continues to be a problem. He didn't even suit up in Atlanta, and the Magic also have been hampered in practice because of limited numbers. "It's frustrating for me," Van Gundy said. "We're just not getting anything done.





DENTON'S RECAP AT HAWKS


ATLANTA – In a game that was never separated by more than eight points and ended with Atlanta edging Orlando 85-82, the Hawks exited Philips Arena on Wednesday talking of a statement victory, while the Magic promised the outcome would have no bearing on their playoff confidence.

The Magic and Hawks will almost certainly meet in the first round of the playoffs in 2 ½ weeks, and an Atlanta team that formerly put up little fight against the Magic will hit the postseason with a 3-1 regular-season edge against Orlando.

But Magic superstar center Dwight Howard, who suffered through a rare poor performance on Wednesday, promised things would be different when the teams meet again in mid-April. Possibly still fresh in Howard’s mind – Orlando’s 101-point whitewashing of Atlanta in last spring’s four-game playoff sweep.

``We’ll be a different team in the playoffs,’’ said Howard, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds. ``It’s a different animal in the playoffs. We’re not worried about it and we’re going to play. We’ll be healthy and well-rested and it’ll be a different animal in the playoffs.’’

Reduced to just eight primary players because of injuries, the Magic (47-28) lost when Joe Johnson made a tiebreaking runner in the lane with 55 seconds to play. Orlando got a good look on Jameer Nelson’s drive with 38 seconds to play, and had to settle for a Hedo Turkoglu 3-point heave at the buzzer from 28 feet.

It left Orlando frustrated about a second consecutive defeat, but hardly doubting itself against the Hawks (43-32) when the playoffs roll around.

``The playoffs start 0-0 and I’m pretty sure nobody has wins or an advantage going into the playoffs,’’ said Nelson, who returned from a sprained knee and scored 20 points and handed out five assists. ``Tonight wasn’t a playoff game. I know everybody is talking about the first-round matchup, but we’ll get better and be fine when the playoffs begin.’’

In a rare role reversal, Atlanta’s Josh Smith shot the ball well (10 of 18 and a season-high three 3-pointers) and scored 26 points, while Howard struggled offensively (four of 13) against the tougher defense of Hawks center Jason Collins. Said Atlanta’s Al Horford: ``We’re a different team than last year.’’

Howard entered the game second in the NBA in field goal percentage (60 percent) and had made a staggering 67.9 percent in his previous five games. Afterward, he was irate at two hard fouls by Collins that he thought should have been called flagrant fouls.

``They’re getting away with a lot of stuff. They’re getting away with a lot of stuff – however you want to write it, however you want to look at it,’’ Howard said. ``Second quarter, fourth quarter, more than once (on the flagrant fouls). Anybody else, that would have been a flagrant, but against me it’s a regular foul.’’

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was in an equally foul mood after the game. He was upset that the Magic botched the execution of the final play with 5.7 seconds left that ended with Turkoglu’s heave, and he was bothered by the Hawks once again shutting down Orlando’s offense. In four games against Atlanta this season, Orlando has made just 38.9 percent of its shots (120 of 308), only 22.6 percent of its 3-pointers (19 of 84) while averaging just 82.5 points per game.

``They’ve beaten us three out of four; they’re better than us right now,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Doesn’t mean they will be in the playoffs. We’re not scared of them, but right now I have to say they’re better than us.’’

Atlanta coach Larry Drew sounded convinced after the game that the Hawks had made a major statement by beating the Magic. ``The win has to boost our confidence,’’ he said. ``I’m always reverting back to last year when we met them in the playoffs and they absolutely manhandled us four straight games. That left a bad taste in our mouths over the summer. To be honest, coming back this year, we knew we’d have to face that dragon again.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from the fourth and final regular-season meeting between the Magic and Hawks:

READ THE REST OF DENTON'S ANALYSIS





MAGIC VIDEO