ATLANTA (AP) -- Growing up in Atlanta, Dwight Howard always
wanted to play for the Hawks. Not anymore.
The No. 1 draft pick scored a career-high 24 points in his
homecoming as the Orlando Magic beat the Hawks 117-99 Friday night.
"I'm happy where I'm at," Howard said. "Atlanta is a great
city. I'll always come back here and play any time, but Orlando is
Steve Francis led Orlando, which has won three of four, with 29
Howard, who grew up in Atlanta and graduated from a nearby small
private school, had several hundred fans sitting in club level
seats behind the Magic bench as he pulled down nine rebounds in a
team-high 42 minutes. He was 8-for-11 from the floor and 8-for-12
on free throws to top his previous career-high of 15 points Nov. 9
The experience of playing at Philips Arena was nothing like
Howard imagined when he attended Hawks games as a fan during his
senior year at Southwest Christian Academy.
"Watching the game from a fan's point of view like last year is
totally different when you're on the court," said Howard, 18.
"It's another feeling."
The Hawks, led by 20 points apiece from Antoine Walker and Tony
Delk, lost their fifth straight. At 2-10, Atlanta has the worst
record in the Southeast Division.
Orlando, at 7-4, is one-half game behind division-leading Miami.
After Francis picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter,
Magic coach Johnny Davis decided to rest his point guard and keep
him fresh to drive the lane and draw fouls in the fourth. The
strategy paid off as Francis, who had six assists, went 9-for-10
from the line in the second half.
"Steve put a lot of pressure on their defense," Davis said.
"We by no means took this team lightly. We tried to put them away.
We just couldn't."
The Magic scored 44 points on foul shots. Atlanta, the NBA's
worst free throw-shooting team, went just 18-for-30.
"It's troubling when you lose a game like that," Hawks center
Jason Collier said. "We have to concentrate on getting back in the
paint and stopping it there."
Howard scored his final basket after taking Grant Hill's pass
from the top of the key and dunking with 1:44 remaining. The
6-foot-11 Howard made a rookie mistake with 5:50 remaining as
Francis, driving down the left side of the floor, bounced a long
pass that Howard let ball bounce near his feet and out of bounds.
Davis didn't care.
"He is neither awed nor intimidated by anyone he plays," Davis
said of Howard. "You think about his age and the fact he was in
high school five months ago, now he's playing in the deep water.
He's not in the shallow end of the pool. He's in there with the big
Hill, who scored 18 points but shot just 4-for-12 from the
floor, praised Howard's methodical approach to his first NBA
"The good thing is it builds confidence, the bad thing is now
we expect it every night," Hill said. "Anything less than 20 at a
time will be a letdown. No, he's really worked hard. He's really
Orlando never trailed after DeShawn Stevenson's 19-footer at the
end of the first quarter made it 30-28.
Walker had nine assists and seven turnovers. ... Hedo
Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson combined for 23 points on 9-for-15
shooting for the Magic. ... Atlanta rookie guard Josh Childress,
starting his third straight game, was 0-for-5 from the floor. ...
The Hawks placed Royal Ivey on the injured list and activated
another rookie guard, Donta Smith, to take his place. Smith missed
the first 11 games with a lower back strain.