for this game

Orlando jumps out early, holds on late to down Hornets

Nov 20, 2007 - 5:40 AM By David Garland PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Getting big leads lately is nothing new to the Orlando Magic. Keeping them seems to be a different story.

Dwight Howard scored 24 points and Rashard Lewis added 19 to power the Magic to a 95-88 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday.

Orlando, which is the NBA's lone remaining unbeaten team on the road at 7-0, has shown a knack of letting opponents back into games once it jumps out to a sizeable lead.

The Magic led by as many as 20 points in Sunday's 104-102 victory over the previously undefeated Boston Celtics before holding on late for the win.

"That's two nights in a row that we've let leads slip away," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I am concerned about it and we've talked about it. But, at the same time, the NBA is a 48-minute game. Team are going to make runs. We have not handled them well, and it's something we have to learn from."

After building a 44-23 advantage on a layup by forward Hedo Turkoglu with 7:44 remaining in the first half, the Hornets used 11 points from Peja Stojakovic to key a 38-17 run over the next 12-plus minutes to take a 61-60 advantage with 6:30 remaining in the third quarter.

"We got in a big hole right in the beginning of the game," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We just were not ready to play and compete in the beginning. I think we kind of waited around to see what kind of team they had."

The Hornets made their run despite the loss of starting center Tyson Chandler, who left the game with a hyperextended right knee late in the second period, and Chris Paul, who missed his second consecutive game with a right ankle injury. Turnovers played a hand in the comeback bid.

"They really took it to us after the first quarter," Van Gundy said. "You can look at the score, but the Hornets deserve a lot more credit tonight than we do. I did not think we played well with 20 having turnovers. We played the game poorly, but kept fighting.

"But, to be honest, the thing that helped us the most was Chris Paul being out and Tyson Chandler being out for half the game."

In the decisive fourth quarter, the Hornets seized a 78-73 advantage with 6:17 to play on a layup by reserve forward Rasual Butler.

The Magic battled back to take a 79-78 lead on a 3-point shot by guard Jameer Nelson, and Orlando went ahead for good on a dunk by Howard with 3:35 to play. From that point on, Nelson and reserve Keyon Dooling each scored four points, and Lewis nailed the last of his five 3-pointers to put the game out of reach.

"The main thing we did was that we didn't get frustrated and blame somebody else," Howard said of the fourth quarter comeback. "We get control of ourselves and every player looks inside of himself. We are playing against some great teams and in order for us to be a great team, we have to come up big in situations like these."

"We are having a tough time closing games out," Nelson said. "When we get leads, we need to build on our lead instead of letting them get back into it."

It looked early as if the Magic would avoid such a fate.

After New Orleans opened the game with a 7-0 run, the Magic dominated the remainder of the quarter, shooting 15-of-25 from the field en route to a 33-17 lead at the end of the period. Howard led the Magic with 10 points in the opening period and Lewis chipped in with seven.

Stojakovic finished with 21 points and Jannero Pargo, who started in place of Paul, added 18 for the Hornets, who lost on the road for just the second time in eight tries.

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