Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic dealt the Atlanta Hawks their first home loss of the year with a dominating second half comeback that culminated in a 93–76 win on Thanksgiving night.
It was the first meeting of the season between the two teams and gave fans a night of clean competitive ball that showcased solid performances from Howard (9–14 in field goals for 22 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 assists) and Hawks guard Joe Johnson (9–21 in field goals for 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists).
Orlando was coming off a nail-biting 99–98 loss to the Miami Heat the night before that dropped them to second place in the Southeast Conference behind the Hawks.
The Hawks have been quickly gaining ground in the Southeast Conference over the last several years, rising from last place in the 2006–2007 season to third place in 2007–2008—including a playoff berth—and second place behind Orlando last year.
The team has had an amazing season this year and looked poised to continue their winning momentum after the first half of Thursday’s game, at one point leading by 14 points after a seesaw first quarter.
The Hawks’ offense did an excellent job moving the ball around in the first half, with most possessions seeing more passes than dribbles. They outscored the Magic 51–39. High score came from guard Joe Johnson who went 6–9 in field goals including two three pointers.
But the momentum from the end of the first half shifted dramatically to Orlando in the second half, who came out and dominated the offensive boards in the third quarter.
The Hawks went dry in the third quarter, scoring only 14 points to Orlando’s 28. Orlando tied the score at 61 with 2:26 to go, and pulled ahead to close the quarter 67–65.
The onslaught continued in the fourth quarter with the Hawks’ offense literally falling apart with only 11 points.
Howard was key to the Magic’s second half offensive success and played with tremendous power in the paint in his 41 minutes of play.