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Francis' jumpers in final minute helps seal the deal

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Grant Hill heads to the All-Star Game this
weekend with a feeling he hasn't had in five years. He's playing --
and he's playing well.

Hill, who will start in Sunday's game in Denver after missing
most of the last four seasons with an ankle injury, scored a
season-high 39 points to help the Orlando Magic to a 99-94 victory
over the slumping Los Angeles Clippers.

It was the Magic's third win in four games, while Los Angeles
has lost six straight.

It was Hill's highest points total since he scored 40 for
Detroit on Jan. 8, 2000 against Minnesota. Hill hit 12 of 16 shots
from the field and 15 of 16 free throws while playing a season-high
42 minutes.

"I don't expect to do that all the time anymore, but it's nice
to know I can still do it once in a while," Hill said. "I really
felt like, for the first time, I could do what I want out there,
and it's obviously been a long, long time since that happened."

Clipper coach Mike Dunleavy was impressed.

"Grant was in an attack mode most of the game," Dunleavy said.
"We tried multiple guys guarding him, but we just couldn't get the
job done."

As good as Hill was for the first 47 minutes, the Magic turned
to Steve Francis when they had to close out the game.

Clippers guard Bobby Simmons, who had 20 points, made two free
throws to cut what had been a nine-point deficit in the fourth
quarter to 91-89 with 59 seconds left.

Francis then made back-to-back jumpers, the second with 17
seconds remaining to give his team a 95-90 lead. Francis finished
with 16 points and seven assists in just 29 minutes.

"Grant put us in position throughout the game, but Steve has
been making the clutch shots for us all season," Magic coach
Johnny Davis said. "He was out of sorts because of foul problems
for most of the game, but again, late game, Steve found a way to
get it done."

Close is about all the Clippers can do lately. They are at the
tail end of a nine-game road trip, the longest of any team in the
NBA this season. Their six straight losses on this road trip have
come by a total of 20 points.

"It always come down to little plays here and there at the end
of games," said Clippers forward Corey Maggette, who had 12 points
and 10 rebounds. "It's getting to the point where we need to get a
win, regardless of whether it's one point or 10 points or
whatever."

Elton Brand led the Clippers with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but
scored only six points in the second half.

The Magic led most of the game, opening an 82-73 lead with 9:30
left on a driving layup by Hill. However, the Clippers clawed their
way back and had a chance in the final minute, but couldn't stop
Francis.

"It's very difficult emotionally and it wears on you, but we
will get out of this funk," Brand said. "The good thing is, we
haven't lost too much ground in the playoff race."

^Notes: Of the Clippers' six straight defeats, four are by three
points or less. ... Magic G Doug Christie had a season-high six
steals. ... The Magic were last in the NBA defending the 3-point
shot last season, allowing opponents to hit 37.7 percent. They are
first this season, allowing only 32.8 percent. ... The Magic are
off for one week and play only one game in the next 12 days.