There are plenty of excuses for the Magic coming out and laying an egg Wednesday night against the Hawks.
Could it have been looking forward to a few days off with the All-Star Break coming up this weekend? Could it have been the surprise announcement just a few hours before tip off that Hedo Turkoglu would be suspended for the next 20 games for testing positive for an anabolic steroid?
Those are just excuses. The plain fact was that for the first 6-8 minutes of the game, the Magic were winning and playing well. For the next 40-42 minutes, they were getting pummeled by an unrelenting Hawks offensive attack and the sheer will to win the boards.
Perhaps there were more outliers than usual -- Josh Smith was draining jumpers like it was nobody's business. But the final score is the final score no matter how you want to excuse it.
And it read Atlanta 108, Orlando 76. A disappointing way for the Magic to go to the All-Star Break.
This was simply a dominating performance from Atlanta's two best players. Josh Smith scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with five assists. He made 13 of his 20 shots including two 3-pointers. Al Horford added 26 points and 12 rebounds to go with five assists too. Both Smith and Horford were making mid-range jumpers, generally the shots you want to give up to those two.
They were also the only two players for the Hawks to score in double figures. Orlando's initial defense was pretty solid all evening. Atlanta shot 44.6 percent from the floor. The issue became the way the Hawks were attacking the offensive glass.
Atlanta grabbed 17 offensive rebounds including six from Al Horford. The Magic oftentimes missed assignments and Horford or Zaza Pachulia or Anthony Tolliver squeezed in to save the possession. The Hawks took advantage of those extra shots to build the lead to ridiculous proportions.
The lead got as big as 38.
The Magic's starters simply were not there after that first little stretch and things got worse in the second and third quarters for this team. The saving grace was a strong fourth quarter effort from a young squad that featured Ish Smith, E'Twaun Moore, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn. They played the entire fourth quarter and took home a 20-18 win over Atlanta's bench players.
They played hard to make the score look better than it had been most of the night.
Still that was the only statistic that could be considered anywhere near pretty for the Magic. Orlando shot 41.9 percent from the floor. Andrew Nicholson and Jameer Nelson were the team's high scorers at a whopping 10 points. Orlando's offense was extremely stagnant after that first few minutes. But they had only 18 assists and committed 15 turnovers. The ball was not moving for the team and that spelled the death knell.
It was just a bad game overall for Orlando. Again, you had to be searching for the positive to find it.
The most positive? The team gets to take a break and reset the batteries a bit this weekend.