After falling to the Washington Wizards Tuesday night, the Orlando Magic will return to action when they host the rival Atlanta Hawks Friday night. The Hawks are coming off of an overtime loss to the Boston Celtics that left them in a tie with both the Magic and the Celtics. All three squads have identical records of 34-24. The Celtics are in Toronto to take on the Raptors Friday night.
These two teams met in Orlando on February 10. The Magic rallied to send the game to overtime, but the Hawks held on for an 89-87 victory. They squared off again in Atlanta on February 23 and despite the absence of Joe Johnson, the Hawks again held off the Magic for an 83-78 win. Josh Smith had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks. The Magic were without Jameer Nelson.
The Magic rank 15th in offensive rating (104.9), 11th in defensive rating (103.1) and play at the league’s third-slowest pace (89.1). The Hawks are 18th in offensive rating (103.7), sixth in defensive rating (101.2) and play at the 22nd-fastest pace (89.9).
Tip-off from the Amway Center is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST and the game will be shown locally on FS Florida.
As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen on the radio – in English on AM 580 WDBO and FM 96.5 and in Spanish on AM 1270 WRLZ.
The officials for tonight’s game are Greg Willard, Nick Buchert and David Guthrie.
The Line: Orlando – 1.0 (181u)
Al Horford is out for the season (left pectoral surgery). Vladimir Radmanovic (sore back) is listed as questionable.
*Dwight Howard is seeing a back specialist in Los Angeles and will not play.
Including the 2011 postseason, the Hawks have now won nine of their last 12 games against the Magic.
With how jumbled the Eastern Conference is, there is a chance these two could meet in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season (Atlanta defeated Orlando in six games last year) and for the third straight year overall (Orlando swept Atlanta in the second round of the 2010 playoffs). Currently, Atlanta would be the fifth seed and Orlando would be the sixth seed.
The Hawks have given Dwight Howard problems in the past and with Howard’s bad back, he could be in for another tough night. Although he’s shooting 59.1% from the field against the Hawks this season, Howard has had his shots limited and is averaging just 15.0 points.
With Howard out, it will again be up to Glen Davis to be the man in the middle and although scored just 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds in Orlando’s loss to Washington Tuesday, he entered the game having averaged 20.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in the six games prior (all starts).
If the Hawks attack the paint and get to the rim, the Magic could be in for a long night. They’ll have to try to make the Hawks become jump shot-happy and force them into long, contested shots. That isn’t easy to do with Howard out of the lineup.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)
Topics: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Chris Duhon, Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Ish Smith, Ivan Johnson, J.j. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Jason Collins, Jason Richardson, Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Drew, Larry Hughes, Marvin Williams, Orlando Magic, Otis Smith, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Stan Van Gundy, Tracy Mcgrady, Von Wafer, Willie Green, Zaza Pachulia