NBA Basketball: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks – Magic Favored
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The Orlando Magic are struggling, and they’ll be trying to avoid a fifth consecutive loss at Atlanta when they face the Hawks on Monday night for the second time in four days.
Orlando (23-21) has not won at Philips Arena since a 117-99 victory Nov. 26, 2004 – the Magic’s third straight there.
The Magic will try to snap that slide and get things turned around after winning only once in their last eight games. They’re 9-16 since starting the season 14-5.
Orlando fell 93-90 at home to the Hawks on Friday, as Atlanta’s Joe Johnson scored 26 of his season-high 39 points in the second half to help his team overcome a 14-point deficit at the break.
"I consider this a very bad loss," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "I’m very disappointed in our first- and third-quarter defense and that’s all I have to say."
The Hawks (15-27), though, failed to build on the victory and were defeated 104-89 at home by Philadelphia on Saturday.
"It’s very frustrating," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "When you come home and play in front of your fans, you want to play well. For some reason, from the beginning to the end, we just didn’t have it. … I thought their energy level was a lot higher than ours.
"When we got tired, we became very individual players offensively. I don’t think we had any effort defensively at all."
Johnson, who leads Atlanta with 24.9 points per game, had just 16 in the loss. He’s averaging 29.4 points in the Hawks’ victories, but 22.3 in their defeats. Atlanta went 1-3 earlier this season when Johnson was sidelined with a calf injury.
Johnson should be happy to see Orlando again as he looks to help his team bounce back. He’s averaging 31.8 points in Atlanta’s last five victories over the Magic, although he’s managed only 13.3 per game against Orlando in the previous six losses.
While the Hawks have won four in a row at home against the Magic, Orlando has taken three of the last five meetings overall.
The Magic hope to contain Johnson in their first of six consecutive games against teams under .500. They return home to face Milwaukee on Wednesday, New Jersey on Friday and New York on Saturday before visiting the Bucks on Feb. 6 and Toronto the following night.
Orlando hopes it can regain its early season form during that stretch after scoring only 93.4 points per game in its last eight contests, while allowing 99.8.
Despite their recent defensive struggles, though, the Magic still lead the East with just 92.8 points per game.
Strong defensive play is critical to the Magic’s success. Orlando is scoring only 93.5 points per game – second-lowest in the East to Atlanta’s 91.5.
Magic forward and Atlanta native Dwight Howard had 19 points Friday. He’s averaging 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds in five games against the Hawks.
The 21-year-old forward-center leads the Magic with a career-best 17.1 points and 12.3 boards per game.
By: Marc Young – theSpread.com – Email Us
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