Ivan Johnson leads Atlanta Hawks to victory

Atlanta Hawks 97, Orlando Magic 88

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Atlanta forward Josh Smith splits the defense of Orlando's  Maurice Harkless (left) and Kyle O'Quinn. Smith had 21 points and nine rebounds.  JOHN AMIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JOHN AMIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta forward Josh Smith splits the defense of Orlando's Maurice Harkless (left) and Kyle O'Quinn. Smith had 21 points and nine rebounds.

ATLANTA — Ivan Johnson scored a season-high 21 points off the bench, and Devin Harris had 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter Saturday as the Atlanta Hawks pulled away to beat the Orlando Magic 97-88.

The Hawks used their 27th different starting lineup in a game between short-handed teams, but the result was familiar. Atlanta (41-33) has beaten Orlando 10 straight times and is now fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, a half-game ahead of Chicago.

Atlanta took a 45-44 lead into halftime when Josh Smith beat the buzzer off an offensive rebound as time expired. That capped a solid half for the Hawks power forward, who scored 14 of his 21 points in the first two periods.

Johnson, who received extended playing time largely because Hawks center Al Horford missed his second straight game with a stomach illness, added 10 rebounds.

The Magic (19-55) tied the scored late in the third quarter, but never regained the lead.

Beno Udrih, filling in for injured point guard Jameer Nelson, led Orlando with 20 points.

Center Nikola Vucevic returned to the lineup with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

Orlando outrebounded Atlanta 53-44, but was just 16 for 27 (59.3 percent) at the free throw line.

PACHULIA SURGERY: Atlanta center Zaza Pachulia will undergo surgery on his sore right Achilles and miss the rest of the season.

The Hawks said the 29-year-old Pachulia is scheduled for surgery Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.

The expected recovery time is approximately six months, meaning the Hawks will be without another valuable member of their bench heading into the playoffs.

The team already lost guard Lou Williams to a season-ending knee injury.

“I think this is the right decision,” Pachulia said Saturday before the Hawks played Orlando. “I’ll be able to come back as soon as possible. It’s a partial tear ... I’ll take this injury rather than a total rupture.”

In 52 games this season, including 15 starts, Pachulia averaged 5.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 21.8 minutes.

He is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and may have played his last game for the Hawks.

Atlanta was missing two other players Saturday against Orlando. Starting center Al Horford missed his second straight game due to an illness, while backup guard John Jenkins was out with a concussion.

Pachulia will definitely be missed this season. The Hawks have already clinched a playoff berth but still have a chance to improve their seeding.

“He plays a playoff style, the way he throws his body around,” coach Larry Drew said. “You can see how his style, it just fits playoff basketball.”

Pachulia had not played since a March 3 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles, missing 15 games before deciding on surgery. He has visited multiple doctors seeking information about his injury.

“After thoroughly reviewing the possible options with Zaza, we all felt this was the best decision to ensure Zaza’s complete recovery so that he can be at 100 percent going forward,” Hawks president and general manager Danny Ferry said. “Zaza is a professional with a strong work ethic. The Hawks will continue to be completely supportive as he tackles the return-to-play process.”

Pachulia has been with the Hawks for eight seasons and became a fan favorite with his rugged play, most notably a forehead-to-forehead confrontation with Boston’s Kevin Garnett in the 2008 playoffs.

The Hawks are expected to make a major overhaul no matter how far they advance in the playoffs, since they have only a handful of players under contract for next year.

Ferry, however, went with Pachulia to at least one of his doctor visits.

“The Hawks are supporting me all the way,” the native of Georgia said. “I think we’re on the same page.”


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