But the result remains the same.
In the teams' first meeting since April, the Magic forced overtime with a late comeback but were undone by turnovers and missed shots in the extra period and lost 89-87 at Amway Center.
"That was a tough loss," Magic power forward Ryan Anderson said.
It was tough because of the opportunities wasted.
"There's not really too much I can say other than we had opportunities," Nelson said.
The only consolation — not that it provided any real comfort — was that the Magic showed some fight down the stretch.
Trailing 78-70 with 1:38 remaining in regulation, the Magic scored on three consecutive possessions after a driving layup by Hedo Turkoglu and two driving layups by Nelson.
Then, with 1.3 seconds to go, Dwight Howard followed a Nelson miss at the hoop with a putback dunk that tied the score and sent the announced crowd of 18,846 into a frenzy.
Orlando has lost two of its last three games, but both of those defeats — first to the
"It's tough, but our effort was great tonight," said Howard, who finished with 18 points and 18 rebounds. "We stuck with it. We didn't let them making a run stop us from playing. We got back in the game. We just didn't finish."
The Hawks’ cast of characters has changed profoundly since last postseason. Combo guard
But combo forward
Once again, he bedeviled the Magic with his athleticism.
And on Friday, Smith and his teammates added something else: resilience.
"We have been playing with a certain kind of toughness and grittiness," he said. "We definitely have been matching the physicality of the other teams. We have been trying to be the initiators every time."
They succeeded this time, jumping out to a 16-7 lead.
That set the tone, and the Magic seemingly played catch-up all game long.
Atlanta (18-9) still creates matchup problems for Orlando (16-11).
And the Hawks continue to get into Howard's head.
Midway through the third quarter, Howard attempted to drive on center
Thinking Pachulia had flopped, Howard complained and got his seventh technical of the season.
It was a sore point for the Magic.
They had contended throughout last April's six-game playoff series that Pachulia and Collins flopped repeatedly, and Howard felt Pachulia had done so again.
"You saw it, so you can write about it," Howard said. "Write what you saw. You saw the same thing I saw. The refs didn't see it."
What concerns Magic coach
"We just didn't play very well," he said. "That's the bottom line. We didn't play very well. But we stuck in there, and I like that. We hung in the game.
"And we certainly had chances. We just didn't get it done in the end."
Just like last spring.