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Magic gets crucial win

By Associated Press
Published March 29, 2005

ORLANDO - Steve Francis had 30 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, and Grant Hill and Dwight Howard each had a double double to lead Orlando to a 109-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, just the Magic's second victory in 12 games.

The Magic snapped a three-game skid as it tries to keep pace with Philadelphia and Indiana, who hold the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Orlando had lost 10 of 11.

"We've really been struggling, but it's good to get a victory," Francis said. "One thing that (interim) coach (Chris Jent) did was he told us that every single game is pretty much like a playoff series. You've got to prepare for them like they're your last game. Hopefully this can start something good for us."

Hill had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Howard had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

With the league's worst record, the Hawks (11-59) have lost 11 straight games and 22 of their last 23.

In his second game back from a three-game suspension, Francis had 19 points by halftime to give the Magic a comfortable lead.

Atlanta shot 27 percent from the floor in the first quarter, allowing Orlando take a 32-15 lead. The Hawks made just one of their first 10 shots.

The Magic led by as many as 22 in the first half, but Atlanta went on a 6-1 run in the final minute, capped by a running one-hander by Josh Smith with 41 seconds remaining to trim the deficit to 62-48 at the half.

Atlanta went on an 8-2 run to cut the Orlando lead to 66-56 with 9:11 remaining in the third quarter, but the Magic went on a 7-0 run to push the lead back to 17 midway through the third quarter.

BULLS 94, GRIZZLIES 86: Eddy Curry scored 25 points and the host Bulls nearly blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead before beating Memphis for their sixth straight victory. Ben Gordon added 17 points for the Bulls, and Tyson Chandler had 14 rebounds and scored 13 points.

CAVALIERS 109, HORNETS 108 (0T): LeBron James scored 44 points, igniting visiting Cleveland's comeback win in overtime from a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Drew Gooden, who hadn't scored since the first quarter, clinched the victory with a three-point play after he rebounded James' miss and scored as he was fouled with 6.4 seconds left.

KINGS 118, 76ERS 109: Chris Webber had 20 points and 10 rebounds in his first game back at Arco Arena since the Kings traded him last month, but Cuttino Mobley scored 30 points and hit six 3-pointers in his best game since joining the Kings. Mobley's rebound dunk with 3:40 to play gave host Sacramento a 14-point lead that all but clinched the win.

NETS 95, BOBCATS 91: Vince Carter scored 39 and helped the visiting Nets snap a two-game losing streak. New Jersey has won six of its last eight and moved within three games of Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Nenad Krstic added 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Nets, who completed a four-game season sweep of the Bobcats.

PACERS 90, BUCKS 76: Reggie Miller scored 12 of his 22 points in the third quarter to lead visiting Indiana. Miller made 5-of-7 3-pointers and sat out the entire fourth quarter as the Pacers held a comfortable lead. Michael Redd had 14 points to lead the Bucks, who matched their season high with a sixth straight loss. ROCKETS 99, JAZZ 85: Tracy McGrady scored 44 points and Mike James had 14 of his 16 in the second half for Houston, which won for just the second time in the last 17 meetings at Utah. The Jazz tried everything from switching defenders to changing defenses and nothing worked to stop McGrady. By the time he started missing in the fourth quarter, Houston had a 12-point lead. SUNS 123, NUGGETS 114: Joe Johnson had eight points and Steve Nash five during a fourth-quarter run that carried host Phoenix. No one else scored for the Suns in the 13-2 burst that lifted them to a 115-109 lead with 2:34 left. Phoenix snapped a Denver winning streak for the second time this month. Shawn Marion had 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Nash finished with 23 points and 12 assists. WIZARDS 114, TRAIL BLAZERS 106: Gilbert Arenas scored 28 and Larry Hughes added 25 for visiting Washington. Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 19 points and eight rebounds, and rookie Sebastian Telfair scored 17 for the Blazers. The Blazers committed 15 turnovers in the first three quarters, and the youthful lineup couldn't overcome the mistakes.

MAVERICKS 95, PISTONS 88: Josh Howard scored 24 and Dirk Nowitzki added 22 for visiting Dallas, which has won six of seven, while the Pistons lost for the fourth time in five games. Reserve Keith Van Horn added 17 points for the Mavs, while Chauncey Billups led the Pistons with 26.

AROUND THE LEAGUE: Dee Brown is ESPN's newest NBA studio analyst. The former NBA guard and slam-dunk contest champ won the spot as the prize in the third season of ESPN's Dream Job , the first to feature former pro athletes. He has a one-year contract.

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