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Shocking start for Hawks in playoffs

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Joe Johnson scored 25 points, Jamal Crawford finished with 23 and the Atlanta Hawks beat Orlando 103-93 in Game 1 of their playoff series on Saturday, overcoming a monster night by Magic star Dwight Howard.

Atlanta was eliminated by Orlando in last year's playoffs in the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA history, but this one was much different. The Hawks led by as many as 18 points while running multiple bodies at Howard all night, and the rest of the Magic failed to step up.

Howard tied a career high with 46 points, to go along with 19 rebounds. Jameer Nelson had 27 points but no other Orlando player reached double figures.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Orlando.

The Hawks were in control throughout after stumbling into the playoffs with a six-game losing streak. They carried an 85-71 lead into the final period and caught a break when Howard was whistled for his fifth foul with 10:58 to play.

But even with Howard playing less aggressively underneath on defense, Orlando put together a 10-1 run that cut it to 92-83 with 4:40 left.

Howard banked in a hook shot with under two minutes remaining to make it 98-90. But a steal by Josh Smith and 3-pointer by Crawford put the Magic back into scramble mode and Atlanta was able to play keepaway the rest of the game.

The Magic came out with some renewed offensive spirit in the opening minutes of the third, cutting Atlanta's lead to 57-53. The Hawks responded with an 11-0 run, aided by a string of Orlando possessions that produced either fouls or turnovers.

To compound matters, a few trips later Howard was hit with his fourth personal and a technical foul at the 5:37 mark for pulling Zaza Pachulia to the floor on a rebound attempt. Three straight free throws by the Hawks made it 71-54.

Nelson kept the Magic close, scoring Orlando's next 15 points to trim the edge to 80-69 with under two minutes to play in the period.

Al Horford had 16 points for Atlanta, which has won four straight against the Magic. Smith finished with 15 points and eight rebounds and Kirk Hinrich scored 13.

The Hawks took a 55-48 advantage into the break, relying on hot shooting to keep them out in front for most of the half. Atlanta shot 55 percent overall, including a 14 of 17 from the field in the second quarter alone.

Howard went 16 for 23 from the field and 14 of 22 from the free-throw line, but he also had eight turnovers. Howard and Nelson combined for 26 of Orlando's 34 field goals.

Howard scored the Magic's first 12 points of the game and had 31 in the first half. His fellow starters and reserve Ryan Anderson combined to miss their first 10 field-goal attempts.

Hedo Turkoglu finally broke the scoring drought for Howard's teammates with a free throw at the 1:20 mark in the first quarter. And J.J. Redick picked up the first non-Howard field goal of the night a few trips later, dropping in a reverse layup off a behind-the-back pass from Gilbert Arenas in transition.