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Hawks need magic of their own
Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia (27), of Georgia, tries to get between Orlando Magic forward Ryan Anderson, left, and center Marcin Gortat, of Poland, during the second half of Game 1 in the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, May 4, 2010. Orlando won 114-71. - photo by Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson woke up Wednesday and watched a movie.

It was a horror film with a predictable plot, a super villain and plenty of heart-wrenching moments. Hawks were ripped apart in nearly every scene before the painful-to-watch finish.

Yep, Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic followed their usual script against Atlanta on Tuesday, although the latest thrashing was even more chilling.

Orlando's 43-point victory in the Eastern Conference semifinal opener left the Hawks with little explanation Wednesday, describing the loss with words like "panic" and "discombobulated" and "embarrassing."

Atlanta has to slow Howard and the Magic down in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series on Thursday night, or the Hawks could be headed toward another quick second-round stint.

"We get down and it's like we kind of bury our heads and continue to go the other way," Woodson said. "I still want to say it's a team still learning how to win. It's not easy winning on the road, and surely it can't be that lopsided."

It was.

The Magic led by as many as 46 points in the fourth, even with Howard and the rest of their starters on the bench. It was the largest margin of defeat in the playoffs since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1968, and the second-largest playoff victory in the Magic's history.

"When they went on a little run, we tend to panic a little bit and we started forcing things offensively," Atlanta's Joe Johnson said. "They were fast-breaking and getting wide-open shots. It kind of got us discombobulated a little bit.

"You just really have to throw this game out the window."

The Magic, oddly, are trying to take the same approach.

Coach Stan Van Gundy gave his team a history lesson at Wednesday's practice, rolling off statistics about teams that lost after a blowout playoff win. The only Magic win by a larger margin was by 47 points in the first round against Boston in 1995, and they lost the next game, but won the series 3-1.

"I think the point is just this: every game in the playoffs is a new day, and you can't get caught up in what's happened before," Van Gundy said. "It wasn't necessarily specific games. It was numbers and percentages. They got the point."

The score, not the Magic's win, might have been the only surprise.

The Hawks have struggled for several seasons against their Southeast Division rival. They've had no answer for Howard on the inside, and no defense on Orlando's potent 3-point shooters.

The Magic had won six straight regular-season games in the series until Josh Smith's buzzer-beating dunk in the last regular-season meeting. Orlando finished 3-1 against Atlanta this season, with wins of 37, 32 and 17 points.

"I just think there are certain teams that match up really well with other teams and make things difficult," Van Gundy said. "They may not have those same matchup advantages against another team, and so that's why I think that happens."

Atlanta's biggest probably has been Howard.

Even after Charlotte frustrated him into chronic foul trouble in the first round, there was no sign of that from the Hawks, who use undersized centers and lack a deep roster of big men. Howard had 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in only 28 minutes of work, opening up wide-open shots for others on double-teams.

All his struggles always seem to wash away against his hometown team.

"It's one game, that's the only thing about it," Howard said. "But if we come out ready to dominate like we did, we should be fine."

Hawks guard Jamal Crawford insisted his team has to treat Game 1 as a "fluke."

That's why he focused on the few positives early in the game during the film session, not his 1-for-11 shooting from the field. Crawford said he "loved" the looks he got, and it's just a matter of his team making more shots.

He said there's not that much disparity between the teams.

"If it was a 15-point win, you can kind of be like, 'Wow, they just beat us,'" Crawford said. But "forty-something points? They're not forty-something points better than us. Especially in a playoff atmosphere, they're not forty-something points better than us.

"Honestly, the same night is probably the most difficult because it sticks with you," he added. "The next day, the sun's out. It's a new day."

So is Thursday.

No telling how that will turn out.