ATLANTA — The Orlando Magic entered this season with daunting obstacles: an abundance of inexperience, a roster with just five returning players and no superstar.
The last thing the Magic should do is make things tougher on themselves.
But that's what they did Monday night. They committed one turnover after another.
The Atlanta Hawks took advantage of all those miscues and beat the Magic 81-72 at Philips Arena. Only a strong effort by their youngsters down the stretch prevented a blowout.
"We just need to make the easy play, the simple play," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Basketball is complicated when you make it complicated. The first guy that's open, pass it to him. It doesn't matter who it is. Get movement. And keep it simple."
It seemed anything but simple for the Magic (3-7) against the Hawks (5-4).
Orlando committed 19 turnovers, which led to 24 Atlanta points.
Jameer Nelson played with a nasty cough and flu-like symptoms while J.J. Redick returned just a day and a half removed from a brutal stomach bug. Neither of them was effective. Nelson scored just eight points with just one assist and one turnover. Redick made just one of his seven shot attempts and turned the ball over three times.
"I felt about as well as I played," Redick said. "I hoped that I could have helped the team tonight. I feel like I did more harm than good."
The Hawks took control in the third period.
The Magic were trailing 48-45 when Nelson attempted a behind-the-back pass into the lane. But Devin Harris stole it and completed the fastbreak with a layup.
That play ignited an 11-0 Atlanta run.
On Orlando's next trip down the court, Nelson attempted a 25-foot 3-pointer. Al Horford grabbed the rebound and passed the ball ahead to Josh Smith, who converted a layup as Redick fouled him.
Smith missed the ensuing foul shot, but the Hawks collected the basketball. It ended up in the hands of Kyle Korver, who promptly swished a long jumper.
The play generated the loudest cheers of the night from the announced crowd of 15,066.
The Magic went almost six minutes between field goals.
By the time rookie Andrew Nicholson hit a long jumper with 2:19 to go in the quarter, Atlanta was ahead 59-47, and the game already was out of reach for the Magic.
"I'm very happy that we gutted it out after an OK first half," Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
Horford scored a game-high 15 points while Lou Williams added 14 off the Atlanta bench.
Vaughn had wanted his team to play with a higher level of concentration at the beginning of the game, with a special focus on defensive assignments.
The players delivered.
They limited the Hawks to 38 percent shooting in the first quarter and 33 percent shooting in the second quarter.
The problem for the Magic was their own carelessness with the ball, and those troubles persisted all night long.
"We just can't make as many mistakes as we are as individuals because it accumulates during the course of the game," Nelson said, his voice raspy.
"The next thing you know, you're down by 10 or 12 points. It's hard to come back from those deficits every night."
The Magic trailed 76-52 with 8:48 remaining when Vaughn took Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis, Nik Vucevic and Redick out of the game.
Josh McRoberts, E'Twaun Moore, Ish Smith, Gustavo Ayón, Maurice Harkless, Kyle O'Quinn and DeQuan Jones split the time the rest of the way and made the final score respectable.
"It's a confidence-builder for all of us, really," said Harkless, who finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two assists. "I think it definitely helps."
The youngsters' effort pleased Vaughn.
"Great minutes," the coach said. "That's the first thing I told those guys. I appreciate their effort at the end of the game. They continued to compete, and I hope their teammates appreciate that, because I definitely did."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times