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Atlanta had hoped to make a run at Orlando for the Southeast Division title, but the Hawks will have to make up a 3 1/2-game deficit with only 10 games remaining. They remained tied with Boston for third seed in the East.
Hawks sixth man Jamal Crawford will be heading to the playoffs for the first time in his decade-long career. He came into the night having played 666 games without making it to the postseason, the third-longest drought in NBA history.
"I finally got it," Crawford said, breaking into a big smile.
Orlando had dominated the season series, winning the first three meetings by an average of more than 23 points. It looked like more of the same when the Magic raced out to a 15-2 lead. The Hawks missed 11 of their first 12 shots and were outrebounded 11-2 during that span.
"It's good for our confidence to know we can actually beat this team," Smith said. "They have the best center in the game. They have outstanding shooters. But we were able to play 'em full court every minute."
Howard picked up his second foul less than 10 minutes into the game with Orlando leading 20-10, knocking over Crawford while trying to set a pick out beyond the foul line. With the big man on the bench, the Hawks quickly made up ground.
When Howard was on the court, the Hawks came at him with one defender after another -- and often more than one. Backup center Zaza Pachulia picked up four fouls in the first 1 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter trying to guard Orlando's massive center.
"You don't want him shooting layups," Pachulia said. "I'd rather him shoot free throws."
NOTES: Atlanta coach Mike Woodson celebrated his 52nd birthday. His wife gave him a cigar case, and his office was filled with balloons before the game. ... Orlando's Mickael Pietrus aggravated a sprained left ankle and played only nine minutes. ... Atlanta snapped a six-game losing streak against the Magic dating back to the opener of the 2008-09 season.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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