After one of their worst defensive games of the season, the Magic look to continue their home dominance of the Hawks as the Southeast Division rivals continue their season series Friday.
Orlando (23-20) has lost six of seven, allowing 100.7 points per game and 45 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Magic’s slide comes following a five-game winning streak.
Defense has been Orlando’s biggest strength, though. The Magic are currently fourth in scoring defense, allowing 92.8 points per game, and are 21-9 when holding opponents to less than 100 points.
Orlando now begins a home-and-home series against the Atlanta (14-26), starting with a matchup at Amway Arena. The Magic have beaten the Hawks five straight times at home since a 95-87 loss on April 2, 2004.
Atlanta has lost 13 of its last 14 games in Orlando, averaging 91.6 points and shooting 41 percent from the field. The Hawks are 29th in the NBA in scoring at 91.5 points per game, ahead of only the New Orleans Hornets (90.6 ppg).
Orlando lost 111-95 to Dallas on Tuesday as the Mavericks shot 55 percent from the field.
“We saw a pretty good team,” Magic coach Brian Hill said. “Obviously, we can’t spot a team a 16-point first quarter, especially a good team like that, and win the game.”
The 21-year-old Howard set Orlando’s franchise mark for consecutive games played, passing Darrell Armstrong’s record of 206. Howard is also in the running to become the youngest rebounding champion in league history. The third-year forward is averaging 12.5 boards, barely trailing Kevin Garnett and Marcus Camby.
Yet Howard is more worried about ending the team’s slump.
“All I care about is winning, and going to the playoffs,” said Howard, who has yet to taste the postseason.
Atlanta is coming off its third win in its last 13 road games, an 82-76 victory at Boston on Wednesday as Joe Johnson and Josh Smith each scored 21 points to help the Hawks snap a three-game losing streak.
Atlanta made a fourth-quarter comeback, going on a 10-0 run to take a 66-62 lead with 7:13 remaining to win despite shooting 36 percent from the field.
“It feels good,” Hawks swingman Josh Childress said. “This has happened to us so many times that it’s nice when we do it to somebody else.”
The Hawks are shooting a woeful 14 percent (3-for-21) from 3-point range in its last two games. The Magic, meanwhile, are limiting opponents to just 33.7 percent from beyond the arc, good for fifth in the NBA.
Johnson had a game-high 31 points in Atlanta’s 95-82 win over Orlando on Nov. 5. The Hawks, though, were held to 35 percent shooting in a 98-79 loss to the Magic on Nov. 25.