Hawks 93, Magic 90
Johnson scored a season-high 39 points on 14-of-23 shooting from the field and Atlanta erased a 14-point second-half deficit to beat the Orlando Magic 93-90 on Friday night.
Johnson had 26 points in the second half, hitting eight of 12 shots from the floor and nine of 10 free throws. He scored seven of his team’s last eight points, allowing Atlanta to keep the slim advantage it gained midway through the final period.
“There is no question he should make the All-Star team,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “He’s been one of the most consistent players in the league and I’m talking about at home or on the road. He’s just been tremendously consistent.”
Starters for next month’s All-Star game were announced Thursday, and coaches will fill out the rosters by voting for backups. Those selections will be revealed next Thursday.
“It would be a big disappointment if I don’t make the All-Star team, but it’s not something I really worry about,” Johnson said. “I thrive on games like this where our team needs a big play at the end of a game and I take it upon myself to make that play.”
Orlando didn’t get the same kind of clutch performance from its All-Star candidate, Dwight Howard. He led the Magic with 19 points, but was only 2-of-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter—including four straight misses when his team led 86-85 with just more than three minutes left.
“I missed a couple of free throws and it cost us the game,” Howard said. “We didn’t come out with any intensity in the second half. We’ve got to put teams in the dirt and bury them.”
The Magic lost for the seventh time in eight games. The tailspin has all but erased the memory of their 14-5 start this season and caused angry coach Brian Hill to hold his shortest postgame interview session of the season.
“I consider this a very bad loss,” Hill said. “I’m very disappointed in our first- and third-quarter defense and that’s all I have to say.”
Atlanta trailed 55-41 at halftime, then stormed back to take an 81-79 lead on Lorenzen Wright’s only basket of the game with 6:31 left. The Magic regained the lead briefly when Howard made two free throws to put Orlando up 86-85 with 3:49 to go, but the advantage was short-lived.
The Magic center missed his next four free throws and Johnson scored six straight points to put Atlanta ahead 91-86 with 59 seconds to play. Orlando pulled to 92-90 with 3.2 seconds left on a dunk by Darko Milicic, but Johnson hit a free throw to finish the scoring.
The Magic ran off 12 straight points early in the second quarter. Consecutive dunks by Battie finished the run and gave Orlando a 37-29 lead with 8:09 left in the period.
Orlando limited Atlanta to just 37.5 percent shooting for the quarter and expanded the lead to 55-41 on Nelson’s 20-foot jumper that just beat the halftime buzzer.
Johnson hit his first four shots in the third quarter and scored 15 points to get the Hawks back in the game. A 3-pointer by Childress tied the score at 66 with 3:41 left in the period.
Atlanta shot 67 percent for the quarter, but couldn’t grab the lead. Howard converted a three-point play to give Orlando a 73-70 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Magic G Keyon Dooling was on the inactive list with damaged ligaments in his shooting thumb. … Tyronn Lue started for the second time since coming back from a strained groin that kept him out for 16 games. He had seven points and three assists in 20 minutes. … Battie scored in double figures for the first time in eight games. … Atlanta is averaging 20.6 assists in its last eight games. … Magic backup PG Carlos Arroyo, benched in three of the last four games, played 17 minutes and had seven points and four assists.