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Magic Vs. Hawks: Dwight Howard Solved As Atlanta Beats Orlando

Dwight Howard was, as the headline says, solved by the Atlanta Hawks as the Orlando Magic fell to their Southeast rivals 85-82. Howard managed to total 17 points and 13 rebounds, but shot just 4-13 from the floor and played only 32 minutes due to foul trouble. The question is whether Howard was solved for just one night in March, or if Atlanta has a legitimate solution that can translate to the inevitable first-round NBA Playoffs series between the two, which will begin in two weeks.

The Magic are locked in to the No. 4 seed in the East; the Hawks will be the No. 5 seed. That means they'll hook up in the first round, with Orlando getting the home court advantage. Atlanta has struggled to handle Howard in the past; Orlando whipped the Hawks by an average of 20 points per game in a 4-0 sweep in last spring's East semifinals. Howard averaged 21 and 13 in that series, but more importantly shot 27-32 from the floor. (Yep, 84 percent.) The Hawks edged the Magic on Wednesday largely because Howard wasn't efficient, and wasn't on the floor for 40 minutes. How'd they do that?

With Jason Collins, largely. The smart but limited vet goaded Howard into two quick fouls in the first quarter; Larry Drew never left Collins in the game when Howard went to the bench, and it's worth noting that Dwight got his points when Drew needed offense on the floor and left Collins on the pine. Collins is such a drain on offense compared to Hawks like Marvin Williams and Jamal Crawford that it's a balance Drew has to find in each game and, really, each quarter. It worked Wednesday, but it's so tricky, and Howard has shown he can overcome even great defenses. He "figured out" the Celtics last postseason, remember?

Either way, if we can get a competitive series in the Southeast instead of a series of blow-outs, we all win. This is a good step for everyone but Magic fans.