Magic Still Rolling Along

The Southeast Division-leading Orlando Magic are off to their best start in a dozen years, but coach Stan Van Gundy and his players are a little concerned about some recent sloppy play.

The Magic try and get back on track and avoid losing consecutive games for the first time all season when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Orlando –9.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 194.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 87% of bets for this game have been placed on Orlando –9.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Since winning 14 of its first 17 games, Orlando (16-5) has dropped two of four. In Friday's 115-109 loss to Indiana, the Magic squandered a 15-point second-half lead.

"You cannot be a really good team in this league unless you can learn to win without losing," Van Gundy said. "If it takes a loss to get you refocused, then you are going to be at best a win-one, lose-one type of team. You can't be any good. We've got to get refocused on what we are going to do to win games."

The Magic, who have their best start since opening 17-4 in 1995-96, turned the ball over 24 times Friday. It was their highest total since committing a season-high 26 turnovers in a win over Seattle on Nov. 13.

The team's defense has also taken a big step back. Orlando has allowed an average of 109.8 points in its last four games after yielding 89.8 in winning the previous four.

"We haven't been playing up to our standards, the standards we set for ourselves," guard Keyon Dooling said. "We kind of didn't believe anything because we have been able to win, so obviously we need to step up on the defensive end."

Dwight Howard had game highs of 30 points and 15 rebounds Friday for his NBA-leading 17th double-double. The star big man is averaging 26.8 points and 17.0 boards in his last five games, although he struggled somewhat against Atlanta last season.

Howard averaged 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in four games against the Hawks in 2006-07, recording only one double-double. He averaging 18.0 points and 13.9 rebounds with seven double-doubles in his first eight games against them.

Howard shot 53.1 percent from the field in last season's series with Atlanta. He shot 60.3 percent overall.

Magic forward Rashard Lewis is averaging 25.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in his last three games against Atlanta. He had 24 points and shot 5-of-11 from 3-point range against the Pacers.

The Magic lost three of four to the Hawks last season, but have won 13 of the last 15 meetings in Orlando.

Atlanta (9-10) defeated Memphis 86-78 on Saturday for its second straight win and third in four games. The Hawks, who have yet to win three in a row, have not had a .500 record this late in the season since they were 10-10 on Dec. 7, 2002.

"I've been saying all year that if we can play .500, we'll be in position to make the playoffs,'' Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "It's a long season. We just have to stay the course.''

Josh Smith scored 25 points against the Grizzlies after scoring 28 in Thursday's 90-89 win over Minnesota.

Joe Johnson, who leads the Hawks with 20.5 points per game, averaged 30.0 points in four games against the Magic last season - his most against any opponent he played more than twice.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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