Atlanta Hawks to play Orlando Magic first time this season


The Atlanta Hawks are riding a two-game winning streak, but will have a tough road matchup Sunday in an upstart Orlando Magic team in Central Florida.

The Atlanta Hawks (16-12) will play Southeast Division rival Orlando Magic (15-11) for the first time in 2015-16. As are most rivalries in the Southeast Division, they are rarely one-sided I don’t expect the Magic to roll over like in recent years, because new head coach Scott Skiles has this young team playing wonderfully.

Outside of the struggling Washington Wizards, the rest of the Southeast is within a game of the division lead. The Southeast could have four teams in the postseason this year. However, so could the Central. The Atlantic…not so much.

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Orlando’s decision to bring in Scott Skiles as their newest head coach was the perfect hire for the organization. Skiles is a former Magic point guard and has a great reputation as a head coach of taking young, struggling teams and making them into a playoff team very quickly. Maybe Skiles gets the luxury of seeing it through with his new team.

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The Atlanta Hawks will have to deal with many great athletes on the Magic like point guard Elfrid Payton, small forward Tobias Harris, and center Nikola Vucevic to name a few. Hopefully Hawks point guard Jeff Teague can go in this game after rolling his ankle badly in Boston on Friday night. That was the reason behind why Dennis Schroder had to handle the point for the entire fourth quarter in Boston.

However it was in that fourth quarter that the Atlanta Hawks looked better than arguably have all year. Boston decided to go small and Jae Crowder could not contain power forward Paul Millsap‘s athleticism. Millsap has been the Atlanta Hawks’ best player all year, but it was a great overall night from Schroder and center Al Horford that got the Atlanta Hawks over the top on Friday night.

Atlanta will need to come to Orlando with a similar level of energy the team displayed in Boston on Friday night. The Magic are an energetic bunch that could keep themselves in the playoff picture all season, at least a year ahead of schedule for Skiles.

The best way for the Atlanta Hawks to beat Orlando is through the three-ball and through great on-ball defense. Orlando doesn’t have the outside shooters the Hawks do, so the Magic won’t likely be able to play catch-up with Atlanta from outside the perimeter should they fall behind early.

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As Orlando is still a young team, Millsap, Thabo Sefolosha, and the point guard duo will need to have active hands to try to pry away some extra turnovers to get some easy transition buckets. With the Southeast Division so close as is the entire Eastern Conference, it is important to keep the wins coming and the losses at a minimum until separation in the standings becomes clearer. Let’s Go Hawks!