It took overtime for the Atlanta Hawks to defeat the Orlando Magic Friday night, but the Hawks nearly let the game slip away in regulation. Heading into the fourth quarter the Hawks were leading by five and within the first three minutes extended their lead to nine points and were able to hold onto a eight point lead with 2:26 left in the fourth quarter.
At the half the Atlanta Hawks are leading the Orlando Magic by two, 41-39. The Hawks are leading the Magic in the Southeast division by one game and are looking to gain ground on the division leading Miami Heat.
After the first quarter of play in Orlando's Amway Center, the Atlanta Hawks lead the Magic by a score of 20-17. After losing three straight games, the Hawks won on Wednesday at home against the Indiana Pacers and are looking to build off that win to work their way up from fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The Magic, are in sixth place in the conference and one spot behind the Hawks in the Southeast Division. They have won four of their last five games and are coming off a 102-89 win at home against the Miami Heat.
Through the first quarter, the Hawks were led by Josh Smith, who scored seven and was shut out from the All-Star reserve roster for the Eastern Conference. Joe Johnson and Zaza Pachulia each scored four points. The Magic was led by shooting guard Jason Richardson, who scored eight, and Dwight Howard, who scored three. Glen Davis also came off the bench to add five.
As we've noted earlier, Smith certainly put up All-Star like numbers (15.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals and two blocks per game for 17-9 Atlanta, a club relevant in the playoff race this season). Peachtree Hoops blogger Kris Willis speculates Smith's problems on the All-Star campaign trail start with NBA coaches - not player or fans:
Smith is likely to be a player branded for the things he doesn't do right rather than the things he does. The parts of his game that are right are enough to get him into this discussion, to place him fourth among Eastern power forwards this season, but coaches will likely always see the bad in Smith's game and choose to punish him or at best not reward him. It's not enough that Smith is at the level he is -- to get their vote, he must realize all he possibly could be.