ATLANTA (AP)—The Orlando Magic did just what they wanted in one of their final tuneups for the playoffs.
Give everyone plenty of playing time. Avoid any serious injuries. And, of course, win the game.
Evans scored 23 points in the second half as both playoff-bound teams substituted liberally, knowing the game had no impact on their postseason positioning. The fourth-year guard, who wasn’t drafted out of college, eclipsed his previous high of 26 points against Golden State on Feb. 25.
“It’s time to build momentum,” Evans said. “I was just trying to play hard, and then my shots started falling. I was making shots, having fun with it. At the same time, we were closing out the game the right way. I think we’re prepared to go to the playoffs.”
Orlando already clinched the Southeast Division and will be the No. 3 seed in the East. The Hawks are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 as the eighth-seeded team.
“The main thing, it was a good game for us,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We got a lot of people into the game. A lot of people played well. I really liked the way those guys finished the game. I thought they competed hard on the glass, played very unselfishly. Just a good game all the way around.”
The Hawks led 55-51 at halftime, but the Magic quickly took control after the break. Evans’ 3-pointer gave Orlando an 82-70 lead with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, and Atlanta never seriously challenged the rest of the way in its final home game of the season.
The regular season, that is. The Hawks, who won only 13 games four years ago, locked up the final spot in the East when Indiana lost Monday night.
They went out and played as if they were still celebrating. Orlando shot 57 percent from the field (47 of 82), getting 17 points from Hedo Turkoglu, 15 from Dwight Howard and 14 from Jameer Nelson. Rashard Lewis added 12 points, while Keyon Dooling and J.J. Redick had 11 each.
“It obviously did mean something, in the sense that he wanted to build some momentum going into the playoffs,” Josh Childress said. “We weren’t as crisp as we should have been. We didn’t come out with the with focus and intensity we should have.”
The Hawks face a monumental task in the playoffs. They’ll face the Boston Celtics, who have the league’s best record and beat Atlanta in all three regular-season meetings by double-figure margins.
“We don’t want to get there and play four games and come home,” Childress said. “We want to get some wins.”
Not playing like this. The Magic made 15 of 23 shots in the decisive third period, outscoring the Hawks 36-23 for an 87-78 lead. Evans scored 15 in the quarter, hitting a couple of 3s and going 6-for-8 from the field. For the game, he was 4-of-6 from beyond the stripe.
“If they’re keeping score, I want to win,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t care, exhibition game or anything else. If there’s a scoreboard, I’d rather be on the right side of that. Now, I wasn’t going to sacrifice everything for that. I wasn’t going to play guys 40 minutes or whatever. But we want to win.”
Stoudamire swished a pair of 3s in the final period, only to throw up an ugly airball from outside the arc that could have pulled the Hawks within four.
Atlanta’s last hurrah came when Williams missed a running jumper, and both Al Horford and Childress had short putbacks spin off the rim.
Dooling raced the other way for a basket that made it 106-95. Evans followed with a fallaway jumper and Dooling scored on another drive that pushed the margin to 15 points. With that, the Hawks cleared their bench.
Dooling had nine assists, one off his career high. … Orlando closes the regular season at home against Washington on Wednesday, while the Hawks will travel to Miami for their finale. … The division rivals split their four games this season. … Hawks coach Mike Woodson picked up a technical with 1:46 remaining after he complained about a foul on Solomon Jones for a pick at the offensive end. … The Hawks had six players in double figures. Childress scored 15, Acie Law 11, and Josh Smith and Joe Johnson 10 each.