Hawks-Magic: Orlando Embarrasses Atlanta on National Television

John Boller@jboll0327Correspondent INovember 27, 2009

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 26:  Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks defends as Josh Smith #5 draws a foul from Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic at Philips Arena on November 26, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The undefeated season at the highlight factory is no more. After seven straight wins at Philips Arena, the Orlando Magic left the Hawks with a bitter taste in their mouths to go with their turkey.

The win pushed the Magic's record to 12-4, earning them a spot alone atop the Eastern Conference, while giving Atlanta its first back-to-back loss of the season.

Leading the Magic to their 93-76 win was All-Star center Dwight Howard. Howard played over 40 minutes in the game and finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

Howard’s new buddy, Vince Carter, also proved to be too much for the Hawks in the 17-point loss. Carter finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, shooting just 7-for-18 from the field but connecting on three treys.

As a team, the Magic made 10 three-pointers, three of which came from former Hawk Anthony Johnson.

In its first big test of the season, Atlanta failed miserably. It was a poor shooting night for the Hawks, as they shot 38.8 percent from the field, just 7-of-19 from the three-point line, and an embarrassing 3-for-7 from the foul line, finishing well below the team’s 78.6 percent season average and 23.3 attempts per game.

Joe Johnson finished the night with 22 points and seven boards while Josh Smith had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Both Johnson and Smith played over 40 minutes, but it was not enough to keep the Hawks perfect at home.

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Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford each played a little over 31 minutes and scored 10 points apiece. They also shot a combined 8-for-24 from the field.

Marvin Williams did little in his 28 minutes of action while Al Horford was a complete zero on the offensive end. He took only three shots to finish with a season-low two points.

The Hawks, who are off to the one of the best starts in franchise history, had been looking almost unstoppable up until tonight’s debacle.

The 17-point loss is their worst defeat of the season. And to have it come on such a big stage is unnerving.

A loss like this one could lead to a disastrous slide. The Hawks were up by 14 points at one point and had a 12-point, 51-39 lead at halftime. They even held the Magic to just 16 points in the second quarter.

However, in basketball there are two halfs, and the Hawks might as well have stayed in the locker room for the second of them. They scored only 14 points in the third quarter and just 25 points in the entire half.

That’s right, 25 points.

Was Atlanta’s practice squad playing the second half? It sure didn’t look like the team that was 11-3, perfect at home, and one of the NBA’s elite through the earlygoing this year.

It is a long season and there will be games like this where it just isn’t your night. But why did the Hawks have to let it be this game?

Perhaps Atlanta was still thinking about its eight-point loss to the New Orleans Hornets five days earlier.

Judging from the way they played, it looked like the Hawks were waiting to get back in control of the game against the Magic, as if they just expected Orlando to play nice and let them come back and win the game.

Hello? This is the Orlando Magic. The defending Eastern Conference champion, a division rivalry where the winner takes over the top spot in the East.

There is hope, though; Atlanta can rebound quickly following the setback. The Hawks’ next two opponents, the Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons, have combined for 10-straight losses.

Following those two games, the Hawks return home to play the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks, both of which are below .500.

Atlanta still has three games against the Magic this season, but they will have to wait until January for a chance to avenge this Thanksgiving Day Massacre.