In a poorly played game on both sides, the Atlanta Hawks were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 80-74. The Magic welcomed back Dwight Howard, Mickael Pietrus, and J.J. Redick from a stomach virus that ravaged the team during their three-game road trip in the Midwest. Jameer Nelson sat out the game as he continues to recover from illness. The Hawks were led by Josh Smith, who had 19 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks and played one of his better games against Orlando in recent history. Al Horford finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks. Jamal Crawford chipped in with 15 points off the bench, albeit it took him 17 shots to get to that point total. Mike Bibby was the hero for Atlanta, scoring 11 points and making huge buckets down the stretch. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double figures. Vince Carter was the lead man for Orlando, putting up 18 points and eight rebounds. Howard, shaking off the rust, had 14 points, 13 rebounds, two steals, three blocks but unfortunately for him, he also had six turnovers. Not good.
The Hawks do deserve credit for winning the game but boy, the Magic looked tired as they played their fourth game in five days. Apart from Chris Duhon‘s hustle play in the first quarter, in which he intercepted a pass from Smith that was intended for Crawford, then saved the basketball from going out-of-bounds while diving into the crowd and igniting a fast break that led to a layup for Redick, there was little energy or effort exhibited from Orlando. Atlanta didn’t look that much better, to be frank, but they made the necessary plays in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory on the road. James Naismith wouldn’t be proud of this performance if he were alive.
Two three-point shots by Bibby in the closing minutes, one that gave the Hawks a 71-62 cushion and another that slammed the door shut on the Magic’s comeback bid with the fourth quarter winding down, were the notable plays of the game.
Honestly, this game doesn’t deserve a lengthy recap.
It’s doubtful that Orlando will play a worse game than this the remainder of the regular season. The offense was terrible as it piled up 17 turnovers in a slow game, partly due to Atlanta’s defense which helped to smother Howard on the low block and not allow him to get into any sort of rhythm. But also because shooters like Rashard Lewis and others couldn’t find the right combination from distance, shooting 4-of-22 from three-point range.
Stagnant offenses would be the theme of the night for both teams.
Ball movement? Non-existent. It’s tough to pine the low number of assists (nine total) on Duhon but it’s clear that the offense isn’t the same without Jameer Nelson at the helm, who’s threat to either pass or score makes it tough on opposing defenses to key in on what he’s going to do on any given possession. Duhon isn’t a threat offensively, and that allowed the Hawks to hide Bibby — a defensive sieve — on him.
Normally when Nelson is playing, Bibby doesn’t play 35 minutes as he did against the Magic. Perhaps if Nelson was able to suit up and play, Bibby isn’t on the court when he made those two clutch threes in the fourth quarter. Who knows.
All in all, this is a game Orlando will happily forget.