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News » Magic-Hawks Preview 2009-01-07

Magic-Hawks Preview 2009-01-07

Magic-Hawks Preview 2009-01-07
The Orlando Magic had one of the best road records in the NBA last season, and so far in 2008-09, no team has been better away from home.

Forgive the Atlanta Hawks if they're not exactly intimidated.

The Southeast Division's top two teams will open a home-and-home set Wednesday night in Atlanta, where the Hawks will try to win for the 16th time in 18 games and inch closer to the first-place Magic.

Orlando was 27-14 on the road in 2007-08 on its way to a 52-30 record and the division title, making it the only team in the NBA to finish better away from its home floor.

This season the Magic (27-8) have the league's best road winning percentage at 12-5, but they're also one of the NBA's best at home, where they're 15-3.

Orlando made it 10 consecutive wins at Amway Arena on Tuesday against Washington, getting 22 points and seven assists from Hedo Turkoglu along with Dwight Howard's league-leading 25th double-double. The Magic won 89-80, continuing their longest home winning streak since a 12-game run from March 10-April 15, 2006.

Forward Rashard Lewis, though, was concerned with Orlando letting the Wizards back in after holding a 17-point lead in the third quarter.

"We got lackadaisical and didn't play good defense," said Lewis. "We have to learn to beat teams and put them away if we want to be one of the best teams in the league."

Orlando's been a bit more vulnerable on the road recently, losing two of three. That's not good news heading into Philips Arena, where the Hawks (22-11) have been dominant.

Atlanta is 15-2 on its home court, where it won five in a row by an average of 12.8 points to close December before Houston visited on Saturday.

In a game that was close throughout, Atlanta's three stars each came up big. Josh Smith went 13-of-16 from the field and finished with a game-high 29 points, and Mike Bibby hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left - on Joe Johnson's 14th assist - to give the Hawks a 103-100 win.

"Joe got the ball out, seamed it up right, and Bibby didn't let us down," Smith said. "... It's good to have a guy like that on our team, where he's made big shots like that in the past, and he's still making the team a whole lot better just being out there on the offensive end."

Bibby made 3-of-5 from 3-point range in the game, and is shooting 44.6 percent this season from beyond the arc, easily the best percentage of his career. He's been locked in from long range in his last seven games, hitting 57.1 percent (24-of-42) while averaging 18.3 points.

Bibby went 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the Hawks' first meeting with the Magic this season, but Atlanta's defense made the difference. The visiting Hawks held Orlando to 36.8 percent shooting on opening night - still a season-low - and won 99-85.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy called his team's offensive performance "abysmal," as Orlando went 4-of-25 (16.0 percent) from 3-point range.

But the Magic didn't take long to gain their shooting touch. Orlando has taken more 3-pointers than any team besides the New York Knicks, and has made 38.1 percent from long range - the same percentage Atlanta is shooting.

Jameer Nelson is making 44.2 percent of his 3s, and, like Bibby, he's been even hotter recently. He's hit 53.2 percent (25-of-47) while averaging 16.4 points over his last nine games.

The Magic won their last game at Atlanta, 121-105 on April 15, but had lost six straight prior to that.

The teams will meet again Friday in Orlando.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: January 7, 2009


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