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NBA Southeast Division Standings: Atlanta Hawks Climb Into Second After Win Over Orlando Magic, Miami Heat Remains Hot

The Orlando Magic know that Dwight Howard's contract is up in two years.  So after a recent stretch of games that saw the team lose six of seven, Magic GM Otis Smith blew up the team as constituted in an attempt to give Howard a better supporting cast and entice him to stay. Smith was trying to be proactive to keep his star center unlike what happened with the Cleveland Cavaliers when LeBron James took his services to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as the sun-soaked "Big Three."

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About the only folks who have benefited from Orlando's trades that shipped away Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus for Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark thus far are the Hawks and the Heat.

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Orlando's tailspin deepened to 1-7 on the night of the trade, when a shorthanded team lost to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.  The gulf widened to eight of nine when a team that hadn't practiced together dropped a 91-81 decision to Atlanta and nine of 10 with a loss to the Dallas Mavericks the next night.

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The Hawks (18-12), who got Joe Johnson back early as a Christmas gift, moved into second place ahead of the Magic (16-2), while the Heat (21-9) just keep on rolling. The team has won 10 of 11 since James visited Cleveland and opened up a three game cushion on Atlanta and a four game bulge on Orlando in the Southeast.

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Southeast Standings

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W L PCT GB STRK
Miami219.7000Lost 1
Atlanta1812.6003Won 1
Orlando1612.5714Lost 4
Charlotte919.32111Lost 4
Washington719.26912Won 1
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(updated 12.22.2010 at 4:30 AM PST)

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Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.