Dwight Howard Scores 46, But Hawks Coast To Easy 103-93 Game One Win Over Magic

If someone told you that Dwight Howard was going to go off for 46 points and Jameer Nelson would score 20 in the third quarter, you'd tell them that the Atlanta Hawks wouldn't stand a chance, right?

Wrong.

Joe Johnson scored 25 and Jamal Crawford added 23 as Atlanta cruised to an easy 103-93 upset the Orlando Magic to win Game One of their first round matchup at the Amway Center on Saturday.

Al Horford netted 16 points and grabbed six boards and Josh Smith had 15 and eight for the Hawks, who began to get the bad taste of last year's embarrassing four-game sweep by the Magic out of their mouths.

So much for all those so-called "experts" who didn't give Atlanta much of a chance in the series.

"We could care less what they say," Johnson told SportSouth afterward. "All the guys in the locker room are confident. And we believe in each other and that's all that matters."

One could see why most experts and even Hawks fans wouldn't be picking Atlanta.

Not only did the Hawks lose six in a row entering the postseason, but they also were swept out of the playoffs by the Magic by a playoff-record 25.3 points per game last year. And they lost Game One in their Eastern Conference Semifinal Round matchup by 43 in Orlando's old arena.

What a difference a year makes.

So what was the difference coach Larry Drew?

"Composure," he said. "That was something we talked about coming into this series. One thing I wanted to emphasize to our guys is not to hang our hats on what happened in the regular season. We felt this was going to be a different Magic team than (we beat three games to one in) the regular season.

"I wanted our guys to come into the series with confidence, but I wanted them to respect our opponent. All I wanted us to do was play hard and maintain our composure."

The Hawks weren't perfect in this one, but they ultimately kept their composure and got the job done.

Yes, Atlanta let Howard have his way with the Hawks in the first half as the former Atlanta Christian Academy standout set a Magic playoff record with 31 first half points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field. But there was no shooting magic for the rest of the Orlando team, which netted just six field goals on 23 tries in the frame.

But the Hawks were having all sorts of fun and knocking down shots in transition to build a 55-48 edge at the break. Atlanta used an 11-0 run to extend the lead to double-digits in a third quarter where Nelson had all but three points of the Magic's offense.

Orlando cut the lead to single digits down the stretch, but it was never really a ballgame. Orlando had a chance to shave it to six, but Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich, who missed a jumper on the previous possession stole the ball from the Magic and found a wide-open Crawford, who drained a 3-pointer with 1:24 left to give Atlanta a 101-90 lead.

Ballgame.

"We were just sharp on both ends," Hinrich told the Hawks TV crew. "When we have that mindset, we can be a very dangerous team."

Dangerous indeed.

The Hawks did it with tenacious second half defense on Howard. The Orlando big was held to just three points in the pivotal third quarter and was so frustrated that he picked up another technical foul in the frame when he threw down Zaza Pachulia when Big Z went up for a shot in the third quarter. He played most of the fourth quarter with five fouls.

Orlando simply couldn't get the job done with just Howard and Nelson producing.

The Magic duo scored 73 of Orlando's 93 points and shot 63-percent (26-for-41) from the field. The rest of the missing-in-action Magic? They connected on just 8-of-34 tries from the field (24-percent).

The end result was Atlanta's first Game One win on the road since the Hawks took the first game in a best-of-five matchup over the Indiana Pacers on April 25, 1996. The Hawks won that series.

Hinrich finished with 13 points for Atlanta, which shot 51-percent (38-for-74) from the field.

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