A career-best playoff performance from Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard wasn’t enough as the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks defeated the No. 4 Magic, 103-93, in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series on April 16 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
?Howard poured in 46 points along with 19 rebounds, the first player to score at least 45 points with 15 rebounds in a playoff loss since Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon did it in 1987. But Howard and teammate Jameer Nelson were the only Magic players to find an offensive rhythm all game. Nelson, a guard, finished with 27 points, but no one else for the Magic scored more than six points.
Meanwhile, Atlanta had more balance in their scoring attack, as five players scored at least 13 points, including star guard Joe Johnson with 25 points and reserve guard Jamal Crawford with 23 points. Forward Al Horford and center Joe Smith each added 15 points and eight rebounds.
“I think we just had to be excited about where we were,” Johnson said during a postgame press conference. “We understood that we played this team four times this and we won three of them . We’re a confident group. I think the last six games of the season people kind of looked down on us because we lost all six. But now we have a plan. It’s coming to fruition and we just have to go out and play together.”
Howard told reporters his team must have a short memory about this game and get ready for Game 2 on April 19.
“It’s frustrating that we lost,” Howard said. “But it’s the first game. … We just need to keep playing.”