Sloppy is as sloppy does.
The Hawks survived a poor-shooting, turnover-filled game – but only because the Magic shot worse and turned the ball over more. Not until Devin Harris scored 10 straight Hawks point early in the fourth quarter did the team surpass the 40 percent shooting mark. The result was a 97-88 Hawks victory over the Magic Saturday night at Philips Arena.
The Hawks (41-33) completed a four-game season sweep of the Magic as part of 10 straight victories against the struggling Southeast Division opponent. The up-and-down Hawks have alternated wins and losses for nine straight games.
With the victory, the Hawks moved a half-game ahead of the Bulls for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race with eight games remaining.
“That is the message that we delivered after the game in Toronto when we clinched (a playoff berth),” coach Larry Drew said when asked about getting his team to play at a high level with the postseason approaching. “The message was that we’ve got to start getting into that playoff mentality. We have to get into that playoff mode. I think it’s going to be up in the air who we play in the first round. This thing can go right down until the last day of the season. But the focus should not be on that. The focus should be on us. That has been the message. We have to get in the frame of mind to focus on us and get ready.”
Ivan Johnson had a double-double for the Hawks with a career-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. He filled in at center on a day the Hawks played without Al Horford and found out that Zaza Pachulia was lost for the season.
Josh Smith finished with 21 points and Harris added 17 points, 13 in the fourth quarter.
“Somebody’s got to step it up,” Johnson said. “That’s what I’m going to bring every game, every month, every week that we play. That is what I’ve got to bring. I’m one of the smaller dudes at my position. I’ve got to do something extra.”
The Hawks finished shooting 43.6 percent (34 of 78), with the help of a 58.8 percent fourth-quarter effort, and had 18 turnovers. The Magic shot 39.1 percent (34 of 87) with 19 turnovers.
With the victory, Drew moved past Bob Weiss, now an assistant coach, for seventh on the franchise’s all-time win list at 125.
The Magic (19-55) have lost seven straight road games. They were trying for back-to-back victories, something they haven’t had since a four-game win streak Dec. 14-19. The Magic have lost 42 of 49 overall and 21 of 24 on the road since Dec. 20.
Beno Udrih led the Magic with 20 points. Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic each scored 17 points.
“Obviously, we’ve been struggling a little bit on back-to-backs, especially in the energy department,” Harris said. “I’m confident we’ll correct it. We’ve got some guys out but we don’t make excuses. We just go out and play what we have and execute the game plan the best we can.”
The Hawks took a 45-44 lead into intermission after a sloppy first half by both teams. The Hawks shot 40 percent (16 of 40) from the field through two quarters, taking the lead on a Smith put-back at the buzzer. The Magic shot 38.3 percent (18 of 47). Each team committed 10 turnovers.
The Magic led by eight points in the first quarter after a 17-4 run. The Hawks bounced back and led by seven points in the second quarter after starting the period on a 15-4 run. They extended their lead to as many as eight points in the third quarter and took a seven-point advantage, 67-60, into the final period. They pushed the lead to 11 points in the fourth quarter following Harris’ lead and then added to the margin down the stretch.
“We found a play that we liked that they could stop so we kept running it and, obviously, were getting good looks at it,” Harris said.
Kyle Korver extended his streak to 67 consecutive games with a 3-pointer. It’s the fifth longest streak in NBA history and just one away from tying Reggie Miller for fourth best.
The win started a four-game homestand in which three opponents – the Magic, Cavaliers and 76ers – are below .500.
“We are a team right now that is playing like we are tired,” Drew said. “Certainly there is some physical fatigue there and there is some mental fatigue. Every team in the NBA is at this stage. It’s just a matter of pushing through it.”
Notes: Horford missed his second game with a stomach illness. The Hawks are 2-3 in games without Horford this season. … The Hawks were also without John Jenkins after the rookie guard suffered a mild concussion Friday against the Celtics. There is no timetable for Jenkins’ return as he must follow the NBA’s concussion protocol. … Harris returned after not playing the past three games with a sore left foot.