They chose a great time to jettison a bad habit.
Josh Smith had 30 points and 10 rebounds and Al Horford added 26 points and 12 rebounds as the Hawks blew past the Orlando Magic 108-76 on Wednesday night.
The Hawks led by as many as 38 points and decimated the Magic defense on the way to earning their ninth consecutive regular-season win over their division rivals. In Atlanta’s last game before the All-Star break, it was a signature night for Smith, who could be an asset the Hawks may shop around the trade deadline.
“Smith is a professional,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “He’s been in this situation before. During this time of season, rumors do fly. His name has come up before. He’s handled it very well. He’s handling it very well right now. The last thing we can do is allow any type of rumor to be a distraction. That’s my job.”
Jameer Nelson and Andrew Nicholson led the Magic with 10 points apiece. No other Orlando players reached double figures.
The Magic have now lost 24 of their last 27 games. It was the capstone event to an unpleasant day.
Already ravished by various player injuries this season, they were dealt a different kind of blow Wednesday when the NBA announced that forward Hedo Turkoglu would be suspended 20 games for taking a steroid. Turkoglu, who has already missed 31 games this season because of injury and illness, will now be out until late March.
Whether it was that latest dose of bad news or not that led to the lackluster effort, Magic guard J.J. Redick said that after a decent first quarter, nothing went right against the Hawks.
“We were down, definitely down. Nothing more to say. We got punked,” Redick said.
Horford and Smith scored at will both inside and from the outside, and had a combined point total that equaled the Magic’s team total after three quarters.
It was Smith’s third 30-point game this season and 22nd double-double of the year. He now has 200 double-doubles for his career. He said his effort was spurred by his teammates.
“We had an understanding with each other that we were not going to take this game for granted,” Smith said. “We needed to be able to come out and play aggressive on both ends of the floor and that is what we did.
“I was just playing relaxed and didn’t force anything. I took what the defense game me and everything was working (Wednesday).”
It didn’t seem like it would be such a lopsided outing early on.
The Hawks started the game just 1-for-10 from the field and had just a six-point cushion after one. They surged in the second, though, outscoring the Magic 32-17 as they built a 21-point halftime lead.
Orlando never recovered.
Horford and Smith combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds in the half, just a shade under the 36 points and 18 rebounds the Magic had as a team
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn made it clear that as bad as things are going for his team right now, he isn’t expecting to get a team back after the break that has given up on the rest of the season.
“It’s just a break, not a vacation,” Vaughn said. “It’s a break to clear your mind a little bit, let your body rejuvenate, and get ready for the remaining games At the end of the day, as simple as it can be you have to be ready to compete every night, especially with the remaining games that we have.”
Horford said there was no question that he felt like the Hawks answered an important call heading into the stretch run of the season. Their first game back after the break is a tough one against East Conference leader Miami.
“Coach Drew challenged us (Wednesday),” he said. “These are the types of games that can get away from you and we wanted to come out and set the tone. ... It was very important (the last two wins). I felt we let a couple get away these last couple of weeks so we had to make it up.”
NOTES: Hawks G Devin Harris was whistled for his first technical foul of the season in the first quarter. ... G Kyle Korver has now made at least one 3-pointer in each of his last 45 games, the longest active streak in the NBA. ... The Magic fell to 5-18 this season when their opponent scores at least 100 points.