Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce didn’t mince words.
In a Martin Luther King Day matchup of Southeast division foes, the Magic snapped a three-game losing streak by silencing the Hawks 122-103 at State Farm Arena Monday afternoon.
“We sucked tonight,” Pierce said. “I don’t like to say that or use that much, but we weren’t very good.”
Atlanta (14-32) was led by Dewayne Dedmon, who scored 24 points, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range, to tie his career high in points. Trae Young had 21 points and six assists. John Collins got his 19th double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Nikola Vucevic led the line for the Magic (20-27) with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Evan Fournier added 29 of his own to go with seven assists. Terrence Ross put up 16 points off the bench, helping assuage the absence of Aaron Gordon (back) for Orlando.
The Hawks opened with an efficient first quarter, scoring 31 points on 52 percent shooting to jump out to a 31-28 lead. They made four dunks, a handful of open layups and a pair of early 3-pointers from Dedmon. Vucevic was on fire early for the Magic, tallying 11 points and five rebounds in the first frame.
The second quarter was defined by a 12-0 Magic run that gave them a 60-57 lead at halftime. With mostly reserves on the court at the beginning of the quarter, Orlando and Ross won the battle of the second units as the forward dropped in nine second-quarter points.
The Hawks offense slowed thanks to turnovers and poor shot selection. Atlanta wasn’t nearly itself from beyond the arc with sharpshooter Kevin Huerter scratched from the game just minutes before tip with a sore neck. Huerter had averaged 18.8 points per game and 4.0 made 3’s per game in the Hawks’ last four games.
Dedmon did his best Huerter impression, knocking down his first five shots from deep in a career game, but the Hawks needed more than a few good shots to correct their poor performance.
“After the first quarter, I thought we were good. After that, we were just out of rhythm. It was all downhill from there. I don’t know what happened,” Young said.
After capturing the halftime lead, the Magic were able to fight off the Hawks and continue to build on it. Orlando won the third quarter by 10 points, extending the lead to 91-78 with 12 minutes to go.
On the Magic’s final possession of the third quarter, Ross converted a deep jumper from an inbounds play where Orlando bounced it off the back of an unsuspecting Hawks player. The play was a microcosm of an overall frustrating game for the Hawks. To the deflated State Farm Arena crowd, nothing seemed to be going the their way.
Atlanta tried to close the game in competitive fashion, but couldn’t claw back any closer than seven points after digging itself a double-digit hole early in the second half. Timely shooting from the Magic, especially Fournier, repelled the Hawks enough for them to claim what ended up as a runaway victory.
The game came with the backdrop of the Martin Luther King holiday, a celebration the Hawks did not lose sight of.
“I’m super appreciative, and so are my family and teammates, of what (King) was able to do for us and how far we have come as a country,” said Taurean Prince, who was in the starting lineup with Huerter out.
“It’s a special day. It’s a special opportunity for myself, the team and the community. I’m 42-years-old, African-American, and a head coach in the NBA. I don’t take it for granted. This is one of those days you sit back and reflect and appreciate the work that a lot of people did,” Pierce added.
The Hawks now head on a seven-game road trip over the course of the next two weeks. Their next home game is Feb. 7 against Toronto.
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