For a brief moment, it looked like the Atlanta Hawks were going to give the Orlando Magic a run for their money down the stretch. But then Atlanta took a couple of jump shots and Orlando ultimately prevailed.
Dwight Howard had 33 points and grabbed 19 points to lead the Magic to an ugly 88-82 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of their first-round matchup at the Amway Center on Tuesday to knot the series at 1-1.
Jameer Nelson posted 13 points and Hedo Turkoglu added 10 for Orlando, which won despite shooting just 35-percent from the field (27-for-78) and dishing just nine assists.
The Hawks pretty much lost this one because they couldn't hit jumpers and got ravished on the boards. Atlanta connected at just a 40-percent (32-for-81) clip and lost the battle of the boards, 52-39.
"We were in good position," Atlanta center/forward Al Horford told the Hawks' TV broadcast afterward. "We were down 10 and made a run near the end. We had it going our way. We had a chance to win the game. We just have to take care of those little things like geting to the rebounds and things like that."
One of the little things Horford was talking about was that all-too-familiar missed tough mid-range jumper that sealed Atlanta's fate.
Orlando was cruising with a 12-point lead with 5:40 left in the game when Howard picked up his fifth foul on an illegal screen. Despite the foul trouble, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy kept the former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star in the game and Atlanta predictably went right at Howard at the post.
The three-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year had to cede ground to the Atlanta assault as the Hawks went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 78-76 after Horford swatted a Nelson shot and converted a give-and-go dunk with Josh Smith with 2:14 left.
Turkoglu added a layup to reestablish a four point cushion before Horford was stymied as he tried to get into the paint. Without any real help, he launched a mid-range jumper that missed the mark, Orlando controlled the rebound and the struggling Jason Richardson drained a 3-pointer with 1:08 left to make it 83-76 and essentially seal the ballgame.
"Toward the end we weren't able to get organized on the offensive end," said Horford, who also missed a 3-pointer on Atlanta's next trip down the floor. "That forced me to take shots that I normally wouldn't take."
Both teams struggled to find their groove in this one. A normally proficient Orlando team had troubles once again from the 3-point line, connecting on just five of 23 from beyond the arc.
Atlanta was downright terrible on the glass in the first half, where they were outrebounded 32-15. The Magic had one more grab on the offensive boards (16) than the Hawks did in the first 24 minutes.
As a result, a Hawks team that lead by double-digits early in the second quarter went into the locker room down 48-42.
Horford spent most of the first half on the bench after picking up his second foul 2:10 into the game. He still managed to finish with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Jamal Crawford had 25 points and Smith netted 17 for Atlanta, which returns home for Game 3 on Friday night at Philips Arena.