SB Nation Atlanta
Stay connected for news and updates Follow @sbnatlanta
Like us to subscribe
Josh Smith posted 26 points and Joe Johnson netted 18, including a crucial bucket down the stretch, to lead the Hawks to an 85-82 win over the Magic at Philips Arena.
Al Horford had 11 and Marvin Williams 10 off the bench for Atlanta, which won three of the four games played against Orlando this season.
This one was very rough, very physical and played very much into the Hawks' favor.
Atlanta went big, matching up Jason Collins with former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy standout Dwight Howard. Collins frustrated Howard all night, forcing him into early foul trouble. But the Atlanta big saved his biggest defensive play for Atlanta's penultimate defensive stand.
Atlanta lead 84-82 with 13 seconds left as Orlando inbounded the ball out of a timeout. The ball landed in the hands of Jameer Nelson, who drove the lane alongside Howard. Collins fronted Nelson, altered the shot and beat Howard to the rebound.
Collins was immediately fouled by Nelson and split a pair of free throws to put Atlanta up by three with 5.7 seconds left before Hedo Turkoglu missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Atlanta the win.
Nelson had 20 points, while Turkoglu and Howard scored 17 each for the Magic, who are all-but locked into the No. 4 seed in the East.
With the win, it became more likely that Atlanta's first round foe will be their familiar Southeast Division foe from the Disneyland area. The Hawks (43-32) are four games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers (40-36) for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta has just seven games left on the schedule.
Howard got into almost immediate foul trouble in this one, racking up a pair of fouls in the first 3:54 of the game. He did not play the rest of the way in the first quarter. Atlanta started attacking the post in the Orlando big man's absence, taking a 27-25 lead through one quarter before eking out a three point edge at the break.
Smith helped the Hawks to a 69-61 lead through three quarters, with an assist from Zaza Pachulia, who had a putback at the buzzer to give the Hawks that extra cushion.
Orlando roared back in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 82 on a layup by Nelson with 1:11 left, but Johnson answered with a running jumper in the lane to reestablish the Atlanta lead.
Jamal Crawford had seven points and Pachulia netted five and grabbed seven rebounds for Atlanta, which held a 42-37 edge on the glass.
The Atlanta Hawks will go into the fourth quarter with the lead.
Howard has just nine points and six boards in this one and has played it in foul trouble. He's having all sorts of trouble matching up against Atlanta center Jason Collins, who is tightly guarding the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star.
Instead, it's that other former Atlanta prep star that's having one of the best nights of the year. Smith just can't miss. He's even connecting from downtown, posting three 3-pointers. And when it's not Smith, it's Johnson. When it's not Johnson, it's Al Horford or even Zaza Pachulia.
Pachulia had a putback as the clock struck all zeros in the third to post the Hawks to the eight point edge.
Horford has 10 points and Marvin Williams eight for Atlanta, which holds a 30-24 edge over Orlando on the boards.
The Atlanta Hawks have an interesting strategy to contain Dwight Howard. They are putting every reserve big they can at him, frustrating the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star and getting him into foul trouble. Then they are taking it right to him inside. So far, it's worked.
Hedo Turkoglu posted 11 and Howard has nine in 14 minutes for Orlando, which shot just 45-percent (17-for-38) in the first half.
Howard sat for most of the first quarter after picking up two fouls in the game's first four minutes. He played through most of the second quarter without picking up foul No. 3, but Smith went to the hoop with 90 seconds left and drew contact from the Atlanta-native. Howard spent the rest of the half watching the game from the bench.
Hawks fans have to like the intensity of this one. The Hawks are doing all the right things in the basketball game -- you know those things that actually separate the team from winning or losing. They are attacking the post, winning the battle in the paint and getting to the free throw line.
Orlando is getting to the charity stripe, too, but they are a miserable 6-for-12 from the free throw line, which as of right now, is the difference in the ball game.
The Atlanta Hawks went to their big lineup and brought Jason Collins into the game to front Dwight Howard. The strategy worked. Howard picked up two quick fouls and did not play for the last eight minutes of the first quarter. Marvin Williams and the rest of the Hawks started nailing down shots.
Williams has eight points and three boards off the bench and Josh Smith and Joe Johnson posted six points each to lead the Hawks to a 27-25 lead over the Orlando Magic after one period at Philips Arena.
But the biggest story in this one was the absence of Howard. That opened up the middle and after Smith took a few dumb jumpers, the Hawks started to go inside. And when the Hawks go inside, they can beat a lot of basketball teams.
Howard played just 3:54 of the first quarter and attempted one field goal. He had no points in the frame.
Don't say that the Atlanta Hawks aren't taking this one seriously.
Joe Johnson looks to return from his sore right thumb injury when the Hawks take on the Orlando Magic in what's likely to be a preview of the first round of the playoffs on Wednesday night at Philips Arena (7:00 p.m, SportSouth, 97.9 FM).
The Magic also hope to have Jameer Nelson back from a knee injury for this one. If Nelson plays, it will be the first time all season that the two clubs have all of their marquee players in the lineup at the same time.
As things stand right now, the Hawks would secure the fifth seed in the East, while the Magic would hold onto the No. 4 spot. That means, when the curtain drops on the postseason, Atlanta would find itself in Orlando. The Hawks know that it's important to wrap up the season series with a win.
Orlando won the first game of the series, but Atlanta struck back, winning the next two games. With a victory, the Hawks would best the Magic in a season set for the first time since the 2006-07 season. That's something that Johnson knows is not just merely bragging rights.
"I think we understand the significance of this game and the psychology of it, as far as this is more than likely be our first-round opponent," Johnson told the AJC's Michael Cunningham on Tuesday. "This is definitely a statement game, a game that we really need to come out and take seriously. We can go up 3-1 and have the mental edge on them as well. It's definitely important."
Atlanta is coming off of a pair of wins against the New Jersey Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hawks haven't had problems with those type of teams that are not even remotely playoff bound. It's the good teams that have given Atlanta's basketball team fits -- especially on their home floor.
Marvin Williams stepped up in Johnson's absence, posting a season-best 31 points in Atlanta's 99-83 win over Cleveland on Sunday. Al Horford added 20 points and 10 rebounds and Josh Smith flirted with a triple double, finishing with 13 points, 18 boards and eight assists.
Most impressively, Atlanta had 29 assists on 37 field goals.
The Hawks must go back to that ABC-style outside-in basketball if they are going to stand a chance against the Magic. But that won't be an easy task with former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy standout Dwight Howard patrolling the middle.
Howard's Magic are coming off of a disappointing 113-106 overtime loss to the new Best Team Ever* -- the New York Knicks -- on Monday at the Garden with no flowers in Manhattan. New York predictably overachieved against a good Orlando team. But by the end of that one, Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark were sitting on the bench after fouling out.
Howard had 29 points and 18 boards in that one, which Carmelo Anthony called a "must-win" game for the Knickerbockers.