It was supposed to be easy. The Hawks made it look that way – at least for 45 minutes.
The Hawks used fast starts in the first and third quarters but had to hold on to defeat the Magic 86-80 Wednesday night at the Amway Center.
The Hawks (13-6) defeated the Magic for the eighth consecutive game, including both meetings this season. It was also the Hawks’ 10th win in 12 games, concluding a 2-1 road trip.
The Hawks built a 19-point third-quarter lead but had to withstand a Magic rally in the final three minutes of the game. Keeping big leads has been an issue for the Hawks this season and the problem reared its ugly head again.
“For our team, we are going to have to learn to develop a killer instinct when we get a team down,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “Right now, we don’t have it. We bobble too many balls. We miss too many fast-break opportunities. We have too many defensive breakdowns when we get leads. We allow teams to get back into games. It’s something that we are going to have to develop.”
The duo of Al Horford and Josh Smith led the Hawks again. Smith had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Horford added 13 points and 13 rebounds, his seventh consecutive double-double. The Hawks also got double-digit scoring from Jeff Teague (16), Lou Williams (11) and Devin Harris (10).
“You can really see them starting to gel,” Drew said. “They’ve played together over the years but what I’m seeing from them is something that is special. They both are really learning to play off each other. When you have a guy with the versatility as Josh and Al is a guy who has similar versatility. They seem to read each other well and it’s getting better every game we play.”
The Magic (8-13) lost their fourth straight home game, something they haven’t done since Dec. 2007. Aaron Afflalo led the Magic with 16 points, including three 3-pointers.
The Hawks built a 19-point lead in the third quarter, 57-38, by going on an 11-2 run and cruised from until the Magic put together their late run. Drew said he never felt comfortable, even with the large lead.
“We were just a little out of rhythm,” Horford said. “You have to give them credit. They never went away. That’s the type of team they have over there. I’m just happy that we were able to hold the lead.”
The Hawks got off to a fast start scoring the first 10 points of the game. The Magic missed their first six shots and had a turnover before finally scoring with 7:19 remaining in the first quarter. The Hawks led by as many as 14 points, 16-2, as they made 8 of their first 11 shots.
The Magic stormed back with a 13-2 run in the opening period. They took a brief lead in the second quarter when a J.J. Redick jumper made it 27-26 with 6:35 remaining in the second quarter. It was the Magic’s only lead of the game. The Hawks scored the next six points and closed with a 20-7 run and took a 46-34 lead into intermission. The Hawks shot 47.5 percent (19 for 40) compared to just 34.1 percent (14 of 41) for the Magic. Smith led the Hawks with 10 first-half points.
“(We were) able to get off to good start,” Smith said. “We didn’t want this crowd to get into the game and we didn’t want to give them confidence early. We came out and were able to push the extremely well, look for open people. We started off the right way but we have to make a conscious effort of not letting teams back in the basketball game when we have large leads.”
The Hawks also got nine points from Kyle Korver, who played 23 minutes after missing five games with back spasms. Zaza Pachulia had seven points and nine rebounds. Ivan Johnson did not play for the second straight game. When asked about Johnson’s status, Drew said the forward “will certainly be rested” when it comes time to play the Bobcats.
The Hawks play their third game in four days when they host the Bobcats Thursday.
- Chris Vivlamore
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