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Diener comes off bench to lead Magic over Hornets

Dec 21, 2006 - 5:33 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- While Grant Hill attacked the basket at will, reserve Travis Diener was the much-needed outside threat for the Orlando Magic.

Hill scored 21 points and Diener added nine of his 13 during a decisive fourth-quarter run as the Magic posted an 86-83 victory over the struggling New Orleans Hornets.

Dwight Howard collected 16 points and 13 rebounds for Orlando, which shot 45 percent (33-of-73) from the field and just 3-of-10 from the arc but showed its perimeter prowess when it mattered most.

"My confidence is growing with each minute I play," Diener said. "I just go out there and play as hard as I can. I try to get everybody involved, knock down open shots and hopefully they go in and we win the game."

Hill was the go-to guy for the Magic, shooting 7-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the line. The 6-8 playmaker used a series of mesmerizing drives to the basket and strong post-up moves.

Despite it being a close game, Orlando led, 26-13, after the first quarter, but they needed Hill's stellar play to overcome the pesky Hornets.

"Sometimes you get off to a bad start. It's a long game, a lot of possessions," Hill said. "They kept their composure, hit some shots, slowly chipped away until they tied it at halftime.

"I think going into the second half, they believed they could win. When you've been down, and you tie it up at half, you feel like, 'We've weathered the storm.' You've got to tip your hat off to them, they played well."

Trailing by five points with 9:34 remaining in the fourth quarter, Orlando relied on Diener, a seldom-used second-year guard.

"I felt like we needed a shooter out there as long as Dwight was on the floor," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "We needed spacing and someone who was a threat to knock down a couple of shots. We made some big shots and had some big plays in the fourth quarter. I feel like we were fortunate to get out of it with a win."

Facing a 72-67 deficit, the Magic went on a 17-3 spurt, capped by Diener's 3-pointer which made it 84-75 with 4:57 left. Diener nailed three shots from the arc during the burst.

"That's what it's all about - making plays in a close game," Diener said. "Usually, in the NBA, the games are going to come down to the last five minutes. (Wednesday) it was no different. We were fortunate to make enough plays."

"I think everyone labels (Diener) a shooter. He is a great shooter but he's also a great player," Grant Hill said. "He has a great basketball I.Q. He makes great decisions and moves well on defense. He hit some big shots for us in the second half. He's showing he deserves to be in this league."

Chris Paul had 19 points and 10 assists for the Hornets, which shot 37 percent (24-of-65) to drop their fourth straight contest.

"It was a tough start. That's how it has been the last few games for us," Paul said. "Teams jump on us and we have to fight back. We fought back and tied the game up but we let down in the fourth quarter. That has been our Achilles heel."

The second-year guard highlighted his impressive performance with emphatic dunk on the 6-11 Howard.

"I didn't know I was going to dunk it," Paul said. "It is the first time I have dunked on someone in the NBA. It was fun because Dwight is one of my real good friends. I have something to hang over his head. He is always the one dunking on people."

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