In his second game back from a three-game suspension, Francis
scored 30 points with 10 assists and six rebounds to lead Orlando
to a 109-102 victory over the Hawks on Monday night, just the
Magic's second win in 12 games.
The Magic snapped a three-game skid as they tried to keep pace
with Philadelphia and Indiana, who hold the final two playoff spots
in the Eastern Conference.
"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."
With the league's worst record, the Hawks (11-59) have lost 11
straight games and 22 of their last 23.
"You can't play a team like we did and not expect to
struggle," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "Our defensive output
was just horrendous in terms of defending the basketball. We've got
this mentality now where we feel we can outscore teams, and it's
not going to happen. It's just not."
Francis had 19 points by halftime to give the Magic a
"Steve played great," said Jent, who got his first home
victory as an NBA head coach. "He was really aggressive, took
smart shots and found his teammates. When he gets up in the 11, 12,
15 free throw range, you know he's playing well."
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.
"We wanted to come in here and bury them from the beginning and
I think it started with our defense," Howard said. "We relaxed a
little bit during the game, but it's still good to win. We're
trying to make this playoff push and every game, it doesn't matter
who we're playing, we want to come out on top."
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 period, but the Magic went on a 7-0 run
of their own to push the lead back to 17 midway through the third
"We can't get down 15 to 20 points in the first half, that's
tough in this league, espcially when your playing against guys like
Steve Francis and Grant Hill," said Hawks center Obinna Ezekie,
who scored 10 points.
Smith and Josh Childress had 14 points each to lead six Atlanta
players in double figures.
Magic rookie Jameer Nelson (8.1 ppg) came off the bench and
played just 3 minutes before suffering an strain in his left rib
cage. He did not return and his status is day-to-day. Nelson will
have an MRI done Tuesday and will not practice. "Jameer said he
felt OK, but it would be an understatement to say it would hurt if
we lost him," Jent said. .... Pat Garrity came off the Magic bench
to score 12 points, the first time he's scored in double figures
since Feb. 13 vs. New Orleans. ... Tom Gugliotta scored 13 points
for Atlanta, his best effort since being traded from Boston to the
Hawks. Gugliotta is averaging 1.3 points per game. ...The Hawks,
who beat the Magic on Jan. 31, have not defeated any NBA team