Johnson, Smith shine as Hawks fly past MagicOct 30, 2008 - 4:03 AM By Zach Chalifour PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- On a special night meant to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Orlando Magic, things didn't go as planned for the home team.
Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks did not play the role of polite guests, getting off to a fast start and rolling to a 99-85 victory over the Magic on Wednesday in the season opener for both teams.
With both teams looking to build upon strong finishes to last season - the Magic winning their first playoff series since 1996 and the Hawks making the postseason for the first time since 1999 - the Hawks were the ones who started the new season on a positive note.
Johnson led the way for the Hawks with 25 points and seven rebounds, seemingly always there to make the important shot when the Hawks needed it. Josh Smith recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
While Johnson may have led the way on the stat sheet, he was quick to point out the efforts of his teammate as the driving force in the Atlanta win.
"When (Josh Smith) is active, blocking shots, rebounding, getting up and down the floor - that's when he is at his best," Johnson said. "We need him flying around like that. When he does that, he is one of the best in the league."
It didn't take long for the visiting team to rally behind their fifth-year star.
After Atlanta pulled ahead with a 26-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Magic were only able to cut the lead to four points midway through the second quarter. The Hawks then proceeded to run off 11 straight points and never looked back, holding off a series of fourth-quarter runs by the Magic.
Dwight Howard continued where he left off in last year's MVP-caliber season, posting a double-double with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Howard also tallied a career-high five steals.
The Magic's downfall began with arguably their biggest strength last season - 3-point shooting. Following a season in which the team made over five threes in every single regular-season game en route to an NBA record, Orlando was a paltry 4-for-25 from beyond the arc. It was the first time in 83 games that the team did not sink at least five threes.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was clearly disappointed with the effort, and noted that in addition to not being patient on offense and forcing too many shots, the home team lacked energy.
"The last good minute of the night was before the game when the players of 20 years ago were introduced," Van Gundy said. "They probably had more energy than we did."
Van Gundy shouldered the blame for some of the loss, but was quick to point out that none of the Magic players offered a great performance.
"Mickael Pietrus was the only one to have a good offensive night, but he wasn't good on defense," Van Gundy said.
Pietrus put up strong numbers in his Magic debut, scoring 20 points while shooting 7-of-16 from the field, but had a number of defensive lapses, and the newcomer wasn't satisfied with his personal performance or that of the Magic.
"We didn't make shots when we needed to; not good at all for our first night in front of the home crowd," a disappointed Pietrus said.
With the Orlando three-point attack missing in action, Atlanta put together a strong team effort that saw the Hawks bench outscore the Magic reserves by a 27-11 margin, led by sixth-man Flip Murray with 14 points, and earning much praise from Hawks' coach Mike Woodson after the game.
"Our reserves carried us throughout all of our exhibition season," Woodson said. "When we made runs in the exhibition season, it was the bench that was doing it."
ORLANDO 85 FINAL
Oct 29 9:44 PM
ORLANDO 55 END, 3RD QTR
Oct 29 9:03 PM
HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
ATLANTA 26 21 47
ORLANDO 13 27 40 HALFTIME
HIGH SCORERS AT HALFTIME
ATL - JOE JOHNSON 11, RONALD MURRAY 9, MIKE
ORL - RASHARD LEWIS 11, MICKAEL PIETRUS 11,
DWIGHT HOWARD 7
Oct 29 8:19 PM
END 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
ATLANTA 26 26
ORLANDO 13 13 END 1ST QTR
HIGH SCORERS AFTER 1ST QUARTER
ATL - MIKE BIBBY 6, JOE JOHNSON 5, JOSH SMITH
ORL - HEDO TURKOGLU 4, MICKAEL PIETRUS 4,
DWIGHT HOWARD 2
Oct 29 7:49 PM
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