Kevin C. Cox
In one of the ugliest basketball games one could witness, the Hawks were able to pull out an 81-72 win behind Al Horford's 15 and 9, and a combined 17 points and 19 rebounds from Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson off the bench.
The Hawks came out sluggish in the first quarter and fell behind to the Magic 23-21 shooting 38.1% from the field and looked genuinely disinterested in running any of their offensive sets. Their best stretch came when they got seven quick points on three Magic turnovers early in the quarter, but after that they were unable to create much offense. While the starters struggled, the bench provided a spark behind Ivan Johnson, Zaza Pachulia, and Anthony Morrow, which helped them to stay close.
The second quarter started with the same bench unit on the floor, who continued to play well, but the Hawks were able to regain the lead when Jeff Teague and Al Horford returned to the floor. The defense picked up, and they were once again able to force turnovers and get out in transition to jump-start their stagnant offense. Atlanta took the lead on a Jeff Teague three that put them up 28-27, and they extended that lead to 34-27, before Orlando made a run to re-take the lead at 37-35 with just under four minutes to play.
The Hawks finished the half on a 6-0 run from that point to take a 41-35 lead in one of the worst halves of basketball one could imagine. Teague led the team with nine points and four assists, while Al had seven points and five boards, and Zaza had six points and six rebounds. The Hawks shot a dismal 35.4% from the field in the first half, while the Magic shot 40%. Atlanta was also out-rebounded 30-23 on the half, but forced 12 Magic turnovers.
The third quarter got off to a much better start for both offenses. Al Horford was involved early on pick-and-rolls scoring five points in the first two minutes as the Hawks extended their lead to 48-41. The Hawks outscored the Magic 24-12 in the third quarter behind six points from Josh Smith and five from Kyle Korver and Horford.
The Hawks shooting improved drastically as they shot 52.4% in the quarter and improved on the glass out-rebounding the Magic 12-11. Atlanta’s offense worked much better, and was really boosted by solid pick-and-roll play. The Magic’s offense was, well, offensive as they shot 27.3% from the field in the quarter. Afflalo was the high-scorer for Orlando with four. Atlanta took a 65-49 lead into the fourth.
The fourth quarter started much like the third ended, as the Magic offense struggled and the Hawks controlled the scoring and the pace. Atlanta rookies Mike Scott and John Jenkins both entered the game with 7:15 to play, and the Hawks sluggishly coasted to the finish. Both teams played poorly in the middle of the quarter and the Hawks interior defense was, to put it nicely, porous without any of their normal bigs in the game.
The Hawks had to put Horford, Williams, Korver, Pachulia, and Teague back in with 2:42 to play after the Magic cut the lead to 12. Atlanta’s starters were able to stop the bleeding and were able to finish off an 81-72 victory.
Al led the Hawks with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Lou Williams added 14 points. Ivan Johnson had nine points and eight boards off the bench, and Zaza Pachulia had eight points and 11 rebounds in the sloppy win.