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Hawks happy with Superman strategy

ATLANTA -- Despite historic production from Dwight Howard through the first two games of the Orlando Magic-Atlanta Hawks playoff series, the Hawks remain confident their strategy will eventually wear down the Magic center and continue to frustrate his teammates.

After the teams split the first two games in Orlando, the series shifts to Atlanta for Game 3 on Friday night. The Hawks look to gain a firm grip on the best-of-seven, first-round series -- even if it means continuing to have very little handle at all on Howard.

Through the first two games, Howard has shot 71.4 percent from the field and averaged 39.5 points and 19 rebounds in 47 minutes. Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only other players in NBA history to finish with at least 30 points and 19 rebounds in the first two games of a playoff series.

Hawks coach Larry Drew is impressed but said his team's primary goal remains to shut down Orlando's perimeter game and 3-point shooters at the expense of Howard's prolific pace on both ends of the court.

"I'm very confident with [what] our game plan has been," Drew said after the Hawks' shootaround Friday morning at Philips Arena. "We have executed. [Howard] is a specimen. He's a guy that can potentially play at that level for 48 [minutes]. I hope he doesn't, but that's not going to waver as far as what we do as a team. His numbers have been phenomenal. But their numbers in other areas have not been good. And we'll accept that."

Aside from Howard, the rest of the Magic are shooting 30.5 percent from the field, including 24.4 percent from 3-point range, through the first two games. It's taken a Herculean effort from Howard -- including a playoff career-first 48-minute effort in Game 2 -- just to get Orlando even in the series.

And some Hawks players don't believe Howard will continue to produce at this rate.

"I don't know if he's able to keep his play up the whole series the way he's playing," Hawks guard Joe Johnson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Game 2. "He's playing a lot of minutes and he's putting them on his back every night. And I'm thinking that, eventually, we will wear him down."

The Magic bypassed their scheduled shootaround Friday at Philips Arena and instead held a walk-through session at the team's hotel. The decision, presumably, provides Howard some extra rest for what is expected to be another heavy workload. Howard, who has made 29 of 41 free throws (71 percent) in the two games, received treatment on his right shoulder during and after Tuesday's game.

The Hawks said the game plan against Howard might include a few wrinkles Friday, but no significant adjustments from a strategy they feel has been productive overall. Atlanta won Game 1 by 10 points and rallied from a 14-point deficit to trail by two with two minutes left in Tuesday's 88-82 loss.

"We're definitely confident," Hawks guard Jamal Crawford said Friday. "We feel like we took their best punch down there [in Orlando]. We didn't play our best game [Tuesday] and still only lost by six points. So I like where we're at."

The Hawks have struggled at home this season, where their 24-17 record is the second-worst home mark among playoff teams this season. Taking care of business at home is the primary focus -- even ahead of finding a way to stop Howard.

"If he keeps playing 48 minutes, um, it'll be very impressive," center Jason Collins said. "Their strategy is to keep him on the court as long as they can. Our job is to continue playing the way we're playing."

So far, that's meant bracing for Howard's dominance and shutting down everyone else.

"It's not even so much about wearing him down -- we just want to win," forward Al Horford said. "You have to pick your poison. I think in the past, we were quick to trap him and we got hurt with it. This year, it's been different and we're having some success with it. At this point, since he's been scoring so much, we'll probably trap him a little more and mix it up tonight."