[Orlando, FL] Coming off of quite possibly the biggest statement game of the season, the newly re-energized Orlando Magic (16-10) headed into tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks (17-9) riding in on the hopes that D-12 could have another monster 25 point, 24 rebound performance like the one he had against in-state rivals the Miami Heat.
Winners of 4 out of their last 5 games, things have finally started to click for Orlando.
“We just have to continue to do that, be more consistent as coming out with the same intensity, every night. I think we did a better job coming out in the third quarter they made a little run but we kept playing and got a good win,” added the big fella.
But could they keep the temperature up against Atlanta?
However, Orlando Magic starter Jason Richardson came ready with his dancing shoes on, scoring 8 in the first quarter by sinking his first three shots, including two three-pointers. They were badly needed to keep Atlanta from taking control early.
At the end of the first, the score was Atlanta 20, the good guys 17.
Orlando Magic starter Jason Richardson from the outside
The second quarter was a little more successful for the Magic – they outscored the Hawks 22-21. The biggest play of the quarter was something not seen very often: Dwight was blocked while going for a dunk. Gasp. By whom? Josh Smith, showing Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy why he should have been a part of this year’s All Star Game.
Smith was the leading scorer for the Hawks in the first half of play, recording 8 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots while shooting a miserable 3-for-10 from the field. Leading the way for the Orlando Magic was none other than Superman 2.0 himself, putting up 9 points, 8 rebounds and – surprisingly – 0 blocked shots.
Atlanta held a 41-39 lead at the half.
The second half started out with both teams matching baskets. It was still a 2-point game after D-12 dunked it home with 4:36 left in the third quarter (giving him 14 points after three). The Hawks finished the quarter on a 8-3 run led by Smith who was rocking 16 and 16 after three.
The score going into the fourth: Atlanta 61, Orlando 54.
It was obvious that the Orlando Magic needed someone to step up to pull this one out, and Ryan Anderson reported for duty, putting up 12 points. But the Hawks put up a fight, lead by Smith who scored a hard lay up giving the visitors a five-point lead.
That shot seemed to be the final blow to thew home team’s chances, you know – nighty night. But a late push by the Magic men gave them a chance to win or tie the game with 17.9 seconds left, and that’s just what they did. With 1.7 seconds left Mr. Howard followed up Jameer Nelson‘s missed lay up with a dunk, taking this one into overtime tied 78-78.
Orlando Magic PG Jameer Nelson drives against some tenacious Hawks defense
With both teams going strong, it had the feeling of a dog fight. Both teams scored a quick five points, putting the score at 83-83. But with 2:22 left, six-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson decided enough was enough.
The veteran tried to put the game away by scoring the next four points, giving the Hawks a 87-83 lead. A late three by Anderson (who else?) brought the Magic to within one point, and with 11.6 seconds left J-Rich was at the line with a chance to tie it up at 88, but he missed his second free throw.
After Zaza Pachulia split a pair of free throws at the other end, the Magic had two shots to win the game but both came up short.
The final score: Atlanta 89, Orlando 87.
Josh Smith was the game’s leading scorer, finishing with 23 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocked shots. Three other Hawks ended in double figures: Joe Johnson (14), Marvin Williams (13) and Jeff Teague (13). Former Orlando player (and fan favorite) Tracy McGrady scored 9 off the bench.
For the Orlando Magic, ace outside shooter Ryan Anderson led the way with 21 points and 9 rebounds while Dwight Howard finished with 18 points and 18 rebounds.
The Magic (now 16-11) play their next game tomorrow night in Milwaukee against the Bucks (12-14), who themselves are coming off an 113-112 overtime nail-biter win to a Kyrie Irving-less Cleveland Cavs squad.
My prediction: Orlando 102, Milwaukee 93.
PG – slight Bucks
SG – slight Magic
SF – Magic
PF – Magic
C – Magic
Bench – Magic
By: Michael Yesenko/Sunshine Slate
Photos: Orlando Magic