Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/12/12
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ORLANDO -- Al Horford and Josh Smith have had better games individually with the Atlanta Hawks, but never have they been better together in leading this team. The Hawks beat the Orlando Magic for the eighth consecutive time Wednesday night, riding the veteran frontcourt tandem of Horford and Smith, to an 86-80 victory. Horford had 13 points and 13 rebounds, his seventh consecutive double-double. Smith had 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. They took turns making the big plays that kept the Hawks in control through the second half, strengthening their new role as serious Eastern Conference contenders. "You get better together as the years progress," Smith said. "And I think Al and I are playing off each other extremely well right now. We've been together a long time, and it shows." This is their sixth season together in the front court, but the first without All-Star guard Joe Johnson, who was traded to the Nets last summer. And they might be a better team now. The Hawks (13-6) have the third best record in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Knicks and the Heat. "They have played together for years, but now they are really starting to jell, and you can see something special out there," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "You can see, they read each other really well." The Magic (8-13) were led by Arron Afflalo with 16 points and reserve J.J. Redick with 13 points. The Hawks, who have become one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, never trailed in the second half. They led by as many as 19 points. The Magic closed to six at the end, but never seriously threatened. The Magic were coming off a successful West Coast trip when they won three of five games, but they struggled throughout the night, hitting just 38.3 percent from the field. They made only seven of 22 shots from 3-point range and committed 16 turnovers that the Hawks turned into 24 points. The Hawks let a 14-point lead in the first half disappear -- and the Magic led 27-26 -- but the 19-point lead in the second half was enough to withstand a late charge by Orlando. Less than five minutes into the second half -- and frustrated by his team's lack of energy -- Magic coach Jacque Vaughn called timeout and made a five-man substitution, yanking his entire starting lineup. The Hawks led, 46-34, at intermission, dominating both the beginning and the end of the first half. The Hawks opened a 16-2 lead to start the game, briefly lost their lead, then closed the second quarter with a 11-2 run. It took the Magic almost five minutes to score their first points. The Hawks got 16 points from guard Jeff Teague and 10 from Devin Harris. They held a 43-39 rebound edge. Kyle Korver, who returned after missing the previous five games, hit 3 of 5 3-point shots. The Magic's 34 points at intermission were the fewest anyone has scored against the Hawks in the first half this season. NOTES: Korver had missed the past five games with back spasms and tending to the birth of his first child. ... Veteran Anthony Morrow made his first start of the season Wednesday, replacing DeShawn Stevenson, who was being rested because of tired knees. The Hawks play Thursday night in Atlanta against the Bobcats. Stevenson, a 12-year veteran, has not played on back-to-back nights this season. "It's just a decision we have made," said coach Larry Drew before Wednesday's game. ... Drew had no complaints about the NBA giving center Zaza Pachulia an official warning under the new rules against flopping. Pachulia was found guilty of his acting job Friday night when he tried to sell a foul that never happened. He was the first Hawks player to receive a warning this season and the eighth player in the NBA. ... The Magic went into the game last in free throws attempted per game (17.25), while the Hawks (19.58) were 28th in the league. ... The Magic still are without veteran forwards Al Harrington (knee), who has yet to play this season, and Hedo Turkoglu (broken left hand), who was hurt in the first game of the season. "Offensively, we've grown as a team," said Vaughn, when asked to assess his team after 20 games.
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