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McGrady and Miller lead Magic's late charge

2/19/2003

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The Orlando Magic had every reason to roll
over and let the game slip away: Tracy McGrady's shots weren't
falling; the New Orleans Hornets were too big; and a comeback from
an early double-digit hole was going for naught.

But the Magic rallied from a 12-point deficit with five minutes
remaining to beat the Hornets 99-94 Tuesday night and snap a
three-game losing streak.

The Magic also trailed by 16 after a miserable first quarter,
making the comeback the largest of Orlando's season.

"It didn't look good early and it didn't look good late,'' said
Mike Miller, whose driving layup with 1:05 remaining put the Magic
ahead to stay. "But at the end it looked good.''

Miller and McGrady each scored 24 points for Orlando. Darrell
Armstrong scored 15 points and Andrew DeClercq had a season-high
14, including seven in a 1:13 span of the fourth quarter to kick
start Orlando's comeback.

A loss would have dropped Orlando to a season-worst five games
under .500 and 1½ games out of a playoff berth.

"Going into the game, I really believed we had to win,''
Orlando coach Doc Rivers said. "I just thought, we can't get down
any further under .500 and we can't get any further out of the
race.''

The Magic trailed 89-77 with 5:09 left to play, but Armstrong's
3-pointer tied the game at 89 and Miller's shot put Orlando up
93-91. The go-ahead possession was set up by Armstrong drawing a
charge against David Wesley 14 seconds earlier.

"We've been dealt a lot of difficult things, but we hung in
there,'' said Miller, who played all 48 minutes. "To win a game
like this, it's big for us. It's something to build on.''

McGrady shot 9-for-26 and failed to top 30 points for only the
third time in the last 16 games. But he finished off the Hornets
with a breakaway, double-pump reverse dunk with 26 seconds to go
after stripping Jamal Mashburn. He also blocked Mashburn on the
possession following Miller's basket.

"A couple of plays down the stretch, there were some fouls that
didn't get called,'' Mashburn said. "That's how the decided to
call the game, that's how it went.''

For the Hornets, Mashburn scored 10 of his 20 points in the
first quarter and P.J. Brown had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his
15th double-double of the season and third in five games. Wesley
added 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

New Orleans, which has lost six of seven road games, shot 22
percent (5-for-23) in the fourth quarter. The Hornets held a 50-34
rebounding advantage, but turned the ball over 20 times for 22
Orlando points.

"We ran out of steam, I guess,'' Wesley said. "We couldn't
make shots. We started playing almost careful and weren't executing
very well. They were the aggressor and came out and took the game.
We let them.''

Orlando opened the game by misfiring from long range and close.
Until DeClercq's layup with 7:12 left, the Magic had missed their
first eight shots. Orlando shot 7-for-24 in the period, with
McGrady missing six of seven tries.

"They came out flat, and that happens,'' Rivers said.

The Hornets capitalized by scoring the game's first 11 points en
route to a 19-5 lead. New Orleans, shooting 12-for-18 for the
quarter, ended the period ahead 32-16 on George Lynch's
buzzer-beating dunk off a perfect backdoor bounce pass from Wesley.

But the Magic finally awoke as McGrady found his shot. He scored
eight straight points, putting Orlando in position for a 15-5 run
that cut the deficit to two points.

Orlando trailed 55-49 at halftime, but scored seven unanswered
points to open the third quarter. DeClercq's putback tip-in with
9:05 left gave the Magic their first lead of the game.

Game notes
Brown sank all of his six foul shots, raising his streak of
consecutive free throws made to 37. The Hornets franchise record is
43, set twice by Dell Curry. ... Injuries sidelined Orlando
reserves Jeryl Sasser and Ryan Humphrey. Sasser, a second-year
guard, suffered neck and back spasms when his car was rear-ended
Monday night. Humphrey, a rookie forward, sprained his left ankle
during pregame warmups. ... New Orleans was missing guard Courtney
Alexander, who strained his left groin Sunday against Denver.