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Smith, Teague help Hawks hold on to beat Magic

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Associated Press
12/12/2012 9:46:50 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Piecing together lineups has become the norm for Atlanta coach Larry Drew in recent weeks, with injuries consistently causing havoc for his roster.

When his team has faced the Orlando Magic lately, though, just showing up seems to be enough.

Josh Smith and Jeff Teague scored 16 points apiece, Al Horford added 13 points and 13 rebounds, and the Hawks held off a late charge by the Magic for an 86-80 victory Wednesday night.

Atlanta extended its regular-season win streak against Orlando to eight and earned its second win over its division rival this season.

Arron Afflalo scored 16 points and J.J. Redick added 13 for the Magic, who were able to dig out of a huge first-half hole, but couldn't overcome 16 turnovers that led to 24 points.

"Orlando made us fight for it," Horford said. "Even when you thought they were out of the game, they just kept coming."

Horford said he and Smith are slowly getting more comfortable taking the lead offensively in games without departed guard Joe Johnson to lean on. Johnson was traded to Brooklyn in the off-season.

"Now with us having to carry a big part of the offence, I think it kind of forces us to be more aggressive offensively and just keep finding each other," Horford said.

The Magic didn't do themselves any favours on offence, connecting on only 31 of 81 shots, in dropping their fourth straight home game. Orlando gets a chance to end the skid Friday against Golden State.

It was the Magic's first home game since Nov. 30 following a five-game trip, but it hardly was a welcome return. Atlanta led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before a late Orlando run trimmed it to 12 entering the fourth.

The Magic pulled within six late, but costly turnovers and their inability to get stops on defence helped the Hawks secure the win. The loss marked Orlando's fourth straight game with at least 15 turnovers.

During its eight-game losing streak to Atlanta, Orlando is averaging just 79.4 points and shooting a paltry 39 per cent.

"Making shots helps, but it's not everything," Afflalo said. "On the road I think we played more focused, spirited basketball. I guess it's something ... The way we start the game has to be with more energy. One of us, next game, will take it upon ourselves to make sure that it happens."

Atlanta played just eight players, but was clearly the livelier team early on, despite Wednesday marking the end of a three-game road swing and Drew deciding to rest forward DeShawn Stevenson's ailing knee.

Drew said they likely would continue resting Stevenson for back-to-back games. Atlanta hosts Charlotte on Thursday.

With Stevenson unavailable, the Hawks got help from reserves Lou Williams and Kyle Korver, who returned after missing five straight games with back spasms.

Korver didn't show much rust at all, going 3 for 5 from 3-point range and finishing with nine points in 23 minutes. Williams was efficient from inside and out, scoring 11 points and stunting Magic runs with timely baskets.

"They gave us a tremendous lift," Drew said. "Both Kyle and Lou are two guys we particularly rely on when we hit a bump in the road, when we need a basket. It's usually one of those guys we draw a play for."

Drew also praised guard Devin Harris, who had 10 points after scoring seven combined in the previous two games against Memphis and Miami.

Smith had 10 first-half points to help the Hawks take a 46-34 lead at the break.

The Hawks hovered near 50-per cent shooting for most of the half, scoring 20 points in the paint and turning several Magic turnovers into layups.

Orlando didn't help its cause, shooting 34 per cent (14 of 41) and committing eight turnovers in the opening 24 minutes.

"In the games that we won (on the road trip) we took care of the basketball," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "There was a stretch tonight where it was a four-point game and then we had three turnovers in a row, and the next thing you know it was a 12-point game."

Smith said he likes temperament the Hawks are playing with right now.

"We are playing together. I think we are very unselfish," Smith said. "We definitely play with a chip on our shoulders. No one gave us a chance when we lost Joe ... We are in this thing together and no one is playing selfish and we have a good cohesive unit."

Notes: Drew said he didn't have a problem with backup C Zaza Pachulia becoming the first Atlanta player issued an official flopping warning for a play in the Hawks' win last week against Washington. "Obviously the league is taking a real close stance with that," Drew said. "I don't even remember the play, but if they say it happened, it happened ... Zaza is Zaza. He's a banger. He throws his body all over the place." ...The Magic's Friday night game against Golden State will begin at 7 p.m. It was originally scheduled for an 8 p.m. start.

Josh Smith (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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