After taking some early punishment, the Magic rallied to snap a four-game losing streak with an 105-87 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics on Wednesday night. Steve Francis scored 27 of his 35 points in the second half to lead Orlando.
Seattle had won three in a row, all on the road, and five of six. With the Magic slumping and the Sonics rising, it would've been understandable if Orlando folded after falling into a big hole in the first half.
"We played toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league," Orlando coach Johnny Davis said. "Their record (23-7) is phenomenal, they play very good basketball and for us to come out and meet them head on and not blink is a huge step for us."
Orlando's recent troubles stemmed from its slow starts, with double-digit halftime deficits in three games of the skid.
It first appeared the Magic were doomed to repeat that trend. Behind Ray Allen's fast start, the Sonics led by 11 entering the second period. Allen scored 30 points -- 16 in the first quarter when he outscored Orlando by one.
Seattle soon extended its lead to 31-17, and yet another weak opening half prompted jeers from the Magic's usually supportive crowd.
"We let the game come to us," Francis said. "We didn't overdo things when the fans were booing. We didn't pay attention to it. We turned it into a hockey rink, put up some invisible glass around the court."
Orlando finished strong to trail 49-46 at the break. In the Magic's previous four games, their average halftime shortfall was more than 14 points.
"We built the lead in the first quarter, and then we got really loose with the ball and allowed them to get back into the game," Seattle coach Nate McMillan said.
The Sonics had one turnover in the first quarter but 12 after that.
The outburst continued after intermission, with Francis and
Grant Hill leading the way. When Francis buried a jumper with 3:02 remaining in the third quarter that capped a 40-13 run over a 12:05 stretch spanning halftime, the Magic led by 15.
Seattle fought back, with Allen's 3-pointer and free throws bringing Seattle to 81-78 early in the fourth quarter. Francis put the game away with 12 points in the next four minutes, including back-to-back 3-pointers to give Orlando a 100-85 lead with 4:28 remaining.
Francis, with 11 rebounds, had his eighth double-double. He also had six assists.
"He made big plays throughout," Davis said. "The other part of that is, our guys were setting tremendous screens to free him up. It goes hand in hand. Steve was the finisher, but our big guys were getting him open and the other guards were delivering him the ball in a timely way.
"That's what execution is," Davis said.
Hill scored 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting and had seven rebounds and six assists. Cuttino Mobley added 13 points, and Hedo Turkoglu had 12.
For Seattle, Rashard Lewis scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half. He also grabbed 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double.
But the rest of the team struggled. Allen and Lewis combined to shoot 17-for-35; their teammates were 11-of-55, with Vladimir Radmanovic missing 13-of-16 shots and Antonio Davis going 0-for-7.
"This team has played well, has played hard," McMillan said. "Tonight, we didn't execute and we had no presence defensively. We put this game behind us and move on."
Francis had eight of Orlando's 17 turnovers. ... Seattle power forward Reggie Evans missed his first game of the season with a stomach ailment. In his place, Nick Collison had seven points and five rebounds in his first career start. ... Orlando center Kelvin Cato sat out with a sprained left ankle and is day-to-day. Since separating his left shoulder on Dec. 6, Cato has missed 11 of 13 games. ... Wednesday marked the 17th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Magic's arena, then known as the Orlando Arena.