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Hawks spoil Daly's debut

Published Oct. 2, 2005

There is, as Magic coach Chuck Daly warned, more work to be done on this overhauled Magic team. A few more scorers would help. So would a little more muscle on the boards.

It will come, the Magic promises, but it wasn't all there Friday night, which left Orlando exposed to a 105-99 loss to Atlanta at Orlando Arena in the NBA season opener.

"We went all over the place, offensively and defensively, searching for things, but we just couldn't come up with enough answers," Daly said. "We're struggling to find our way."

It was a tough spot to be in with the Magic trying to synchronize several new players within a new Daly-designed system against a team that it traditionally has had trouble with (Atlanta is 19-13 against Orlando).

Orlando didn't look totally clueless, although it nearly had its league-leading streak of consecutive games with at least one three-pointer snapped. Darrell Armstrong finally hit one with 26.7 seconds left to extend the streak to 314.

The Magic, for all its confusion and disarray, stood even with the more polished Hawks at 88 with about four minutes to play. But Rony Seikaly was called for a questionable offensive foul as he tried a turnaround jumper with 3:53 to go. It was the first of six straight possessions in which the Magic failed to score a field goal, a drought it never recovered from.

"We just missed buckets at the end," said Daly, whose team was outrebounded 43-29.

The loss in front of a sellout crowd of 17,248 spoiled Daly's debut with the Magic, which was marked by several pregame theatrics. But it wasn't a total wash.

The Magic's experiment at moving Penny Hardaway from point guard to shooting guard was a success. The All-Star guard started slowly, taking just three shots in the opening quarter, but soared after that to lead all scorers with 31 points and eight rebounds.

That was pretty remarkable considering he came into the game listed as questionable because of tendinitis in his right knee. He said the knee bothered him at times, but as the game went on, it loosened up and he felt fine.

Seikaly, who had been nursing a sore right foot, apparently was feeling fine, too. He wheeled and dealed on Atlanta's feared center, Dikembe Mutombo, torching the defensive star for 28 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.

And Daly was pleasantly surprised by his club's scoring, which he feared would be a problem. Granted, the Magic started noticeably sluggish, generating just 18 first-quarter points to fall behind 30-18. But the Magic came on after that, scoring 33 points in the second quarter, then playing even with the Hawks after that.

"We came out too sluggish for it to be the opening game of the NBA season," Hardaway said. "We got behind and we could never recover."

Hardaway and Seikaly accounted for most of Orlando's points. Horace Grant added 10, but just two rebounds. Newly acquired guard Derek Harper was 4-of-10 from the field for eight points and just two assists. Nick Anderson's preseason shooting slump continued as he hit 2 of 5 attempts and added two rebounds and two assists.

What did in the Magic was defense, a deficiency the defensive-minded Daly surely won't let continue. Orlando allowed Atlanta to get far too many easy shots and couldn't stop the Hawks when it needed to.

Atlanta, which got 22 points from Steve Smith and 20 off the bench from Alan Henderson, shot 55.6 percent from the field, a statistic no doubt helped by 34 of 57 first-half points scored in the paint.

At times the Magic went to a quick lineup anchored by Armstrong and were able to pressure the Hawks into turnovers and mistakes. That helped Orlando draw back from a 15-point deficit early in the second period and close to within six, 57-51 by halftime.

"We weathered the storm," Atlanta forward Christian Laettner said. "We knew they were going to make a run for it. They did, but we pulled away in the end."