Game Preview: Magic vs Hawks

(John Raoux/AP)

Orlando matches up poorly with Atlanta, but the Hawks haven't played well of late. Look for the Magic to squeak out a very close game.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic

Monday, March 10th, 7:05

Records: Orlando- 40-24, 3rd place in the Eastern Conference; Atlanta 26-36, tied for 8th place in the Eastern Conference.  Atlanta on the road- 7-24; Orlando at home- 18-12

The Magic play their second consecutive game at the Amway Arena where they've won five out of their last six. This is the second of four meetings with the Hawks with Atlanta taking the first in Orlando, 98-87. The Magic lead the all time series 36-34.

The Hawks will bring a physical, athletic team to Orlando Monday night as they are led by shooting guard Joe Johnson who averages 20.7 ppg. And 5.3 assists. Also returning to Florida is former two-time national champion Gator, Al Horford, who is currently a rookie of the year candidate. Horford averages 9.8 ppg. and 10 rebounds for Atlanta. Starting at point guard is the newly acquired Mike Bibby, who averages 13.4 ppg. and 5.1 assists. Athletic small forward Josh Smith is having a career year as he's scoring at a rate of 17.3 pgg., he adds 8.1 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. Rounding out the Hawks starting lineup is power forward Marvin Williams, who is scoring a career high 15.2 ppg., with 5.7 rebounds.

Atlanta has limited talent off the bench, as they bring forward Josh Childress, who averages 12.1 ppg. and 5 rebounds in 30.2 minutes, former Magic center Zaza Pachulia, who averages 4.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, and rookie Acie Law at point guard.

Statistically speaking

The Hawks are 24th in the league in points scored (94.6 ppg.), 21st in field goal percentage (44.25%), 27th in adjusted field goal percentage (47%), 22nd in three point shooting (34%), 8th in free throw percentage (77.3%), 20th in field goal percentage allowed (45.82%), 12th in opponents scoring (98.6 ppg.), 10th in opponents three point shooting (35%), T13th in steals (7.5/gm.), 25th turnovers (14.8/gm.), 3rd in blocked shots (5.8/gm.), 11th in rebounding (42.3/gm.), and 18th in assists (21.2/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up: 6th scoring (104.6 ppg.),  5th FG % (47.3%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 6th three point shooting (38%), 22nd FT% (72.69%), 9th FG% allowed (44.93%), 17th opponents scoring (100.1 ppg.), 17th opponents three point shooting (36%), 26th steals (6.3/gm.), 14th turnovers (14./gm.), 24th in blocked shots (4.2/gm.), 13th in rebounding (42.2/gm.), and 23rd in assists (20.2/gm.).

What do the stats tell us? Atlanta is an athletic, mostly defensive team that guards the three-point line well and blocks a lot of shots. They have troubles scoring in the half court, and that's most of the reason for their 26-36 record.

Best matchup for Atlanta: Joe Johnson vs. Maurice Evans- Johnson is a guard who can score from nearly everywhere and create open shots for his teammates thanks to his fantastic shooting ability. Evans will have to stay close to Johnson as he excels at running the baseline and shooting off screens. Johnson had 24 points in the first meeting against Orlando.

Best matchup for Orlando:
Dwight Howard vs. Al Horford- Howard has too much size and strength for anyone on the Hawks to cover him effectively, and Dwight seems to be extra motivated when playing against Atlanta, the city in which he grew up. They will be forced to collapse down and leave the outside open. Howard scored 14 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the first meeting.

Keys to a Magic victory:

1. Get Dwight the ball early, and keep feeding him. Orlando has an advantage almost every night with Dwight Howard and if they get him started early on, the entire offense tends to flourish. Lately they've been getting Howard the ball early with very good results, then they've gone away from him.

2. Cut down on turnovers. Orlando tends to struggle against athletic teams like Atlanta, and they must take care of the ball to avoid easy fast break opportunities for the Hawks.

3. Beat them on the glass. When Dwight Howard gets some help on the glass, the team tends to prosper. Evans, Lewis, and Turkoglu have to do a better job of rebounding.

Final thoughts: Orlando matches up poorly with Atlanta, but the Hawks haven't played well of late. Look for the Magic to squeak out a very close game.

For our gamblers out there: Magic will win the game, Atlanta will beat the spread.

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