Magic-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

The Orlando Magic couldn't quite close out a 4-0 homestand, and now they'll hit the road trying to end a lengthy drought away from central Florida.

Atlanta might not be an ideal destination to put a stop to their road ineptitude.

The Magic will try to avoid a 15th straight loss away from home Saturday night at Philips Arena, where they've lost eight straight meetings with the Hawks.

Orlando (3-3) looked surprisingly dominant in winning its first three home games of 2013-14, taking down New Orleans, Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Clippers by an average of 16.3 points while shooting 50.2 percent.

The Magic's perfect home start came to an end Friday, though, as they committed 20 turnovers and shot 39.8 percent in a 91-89 loss to Boston.

''This team has been through a lot last year in understanding how valuable wins are,'' said Arron Afflalo, who led the Magic with 23 points. ''Outside of that opener (10-point loss to Indiana), we've lost two games now that we felt we should have won. So we are learning in a process, but I think we came to play."

That was Orlando's ninth straight loss to Boston, and it'll begin a two-game trip trying to end a few ugly droughts. The Magic haven't won a road game since March 4 - they're 2-24 in their last 26 away from home - and they haven't won in Atlanta since finishing a sweep of the Hawks in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Their current skid at Philips Arena includes three losses there in the first round of the 2011 postseason.

Atlanta (2-3) also has won 10 straight regular-season games in the series by playing some suffocating defense. The Magic have averaged 79.9 points in that stretch, shooting no better than 42.2 percent in any meeting.

Those Hawks teams, of course, all had Josh Smith, but scoring hasn't been a problem so far as Atlanta transitions without one of its frontcourt mainstays from the past decade. The Hawks have averaged an East-high 105.2 points in their first five games under coach Mike Budenholzer.

Perhaps where they miss Smith the most is at the defensive end. Atlanta surrendered more than 100 points for the fourth time in five games in Thursday's 109-107 loss at Denver, concluding a three-game trip with a second loss.

"You always want to leave with a win," center Al Horford said. "This just means that we have some work ahead of us. We have to focus on Orlando, who has been playing great. They beat the Clippers recently. That's going to be a big challenge for us at home. The good thing is we will be at home so we'll have the fans behind us."

Horford is off to a fine start with averages of 18.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.2 steals, but Atlanta's frontcourt replacement for Smith has been just as instrumental. Paul Millsap had 25 and 11 in a win at Sacramento on Tuesday, then finished with 29 points, 10 boards and five assists against the Nuggets.

"Those of us that have been in the West know what kind of player Paul has been," said Budenholzer, a Spurs assistant since 1996. "Paul is a gamer. He's actually fighting through some nicks right now, he's a little banged up, but he is a heck of a player."

Millsap should fit right in for Atlanta in this series. He ended his Utah career with a personal five-game winning streak against the Magic in which he averaged 20.6 points and 2.0 steals.

Atlanta is expected to have Dennis Schroder back Saturday after the rookie point guard was suspended one game for striking Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins in the groin.

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