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Magic-Hawks Preview

AP - Sports

Atlanta's success against the Orlando Magic from last season has already carried over to this one. However, considering their current state, the Hawks might have a tough time continuing that run over their rival.

Without star Joe Johnson, the Hawks could find it difficult trying to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss while looking for a sixth consecutive home win over the Magic on Thursday night.

After taking three of four from Orlando during the 2010-11 regular season and winning a first-round playoff matchup in six games, Atlanta (19-14) edged the Magic 89-87 in overtime on the road Feb. 10.

The Hawks also have won five straight regular season and playoff home games against Orlando, though the last four have been decided by a combined 13 points.

"(Orlando) knows our offensive and our defensive schemes, and we know their schemes. We just gotta try to outplay them,'' said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who had 23 points and a season-high 19 rebounds against the Magic earlier this month.

Atlanta might have a more difficult time doing that after dropping its third in a row and eighth in 11 games, 99-82 to New York on Wednesday to conclude 1-4 road trip.

Orlando (22-12), meanwhile, won for the 10th time in 13 contests while shooting 53.6 percent during a 108-91 victory at New Jersey on Wednesday. Playing well and facing a depleted Atlanta team might be what the Magic need to turn things around in this series.

With Johnson sitting because of tendinitis in his knee, the Hawks were held to 35 points in the first half and shot 39.5 percent against the Knicks.

Averaging a team-leading 17.6 points, Johnson will miss this weekend's All-Star game in Orlando. Already without fellow All-Star Al Horford (torn pectoral muscle) for more than a month, Atlanta's recent struggles have come even with Johnson in the mix.

The Hawks have averaged 85.8 points on 41.5 percent shooting while going 3-8 in February. Jeff Teague scored a team-high 18 points and Willie Green added 16 on Wednesday.

"Being as depleted as we were, I still was hoping we could come out and just put together four solid quarters," coach Larry Drew said. "We just didn't do that."

Smith, who most in the organization feel was snubbed by the addition of Boston's Rajon Rondo as Johnson's All-Star replacement, has remained consistent by averaging 18.4 points and 10.9 rebounds in the last nine games.

The veteran forward has been held to 17 points and 14 boards in the last two home games - both in the playoffs - versus Orlando.

Dwight Howard, who remains in Orlando for the time being, averaged 27.0 points and 15.5 rebounds in the playoff series loss to Atlanta last season. However, he's failed to score more than 19 in a contest during the Magic's four-game regular-season skid to the Hawks.

Howard, who has asked for a trade as he approaches free agency, has totaled 48 points and 33 boards in the last two games overall.

"Right now my only concern is winning games, playing as hard as I can every night,'' Howard said. "That's the only thing I can control. I put all the other thoughts aside. The only thing I can control is what I do on the court.''

Ryan Anderson, who had 14 points and nine rebounds Wednesday for the Magic, recorded 21 with nine boards against the Hawks earlier this month.

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