So trailing by 18 points against the Los Angeles Lakers was no big deal.
Steve Francis scored 32 points, Hill added 27 points and 12 rebounds and the Magic rallied for a 122-113 victory over the Lakers on Friday night.
“We’re an explosive team,” said Hill, who also had four assists and four steals. “It’s just a matter of when we’re going to explode. We did that and got ourselves back in the game.”
The Magic were behind 39-21 early in the second quarter but came from behind thanks to an impressive performance from Francis and another encouraging outing from Hill, who was severely hampered by an ankle injury during his first four seasons in Orlando.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers in scoring for the seventh consecutive game, finishing with a season-high 41 points on 14-of-31 shooting. He was 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
Bryant’s three-point play with a little more than five minutes to play cut Orlando’s lead to 107-103. But Hill hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 1:38 to play, giving the Magic a 116-106 lead.
He added another one with 28 seconds to play that sent the crowd into a frenzy and got him a well-deserved standing ovation.
“It’s great to see him out there. It really is,” Bryant said. “He’s always been a guy I looked at and patterned my game after, even when he was at Duke. I’ve been a fan of Grant Hill’s for a long, long time.”
Hill’s two 3-pointers matched his total from the previous four seasons.
“I know my game is driving and slashing and taking it to the basket, but from time to time I’ll take one,” said Hill, adding that he practiced more than 200 shots a day from beyond the arc this summer.
He acknowledged that his performance was somewhat vintage Grant Hill—with so many aspects of his game working at the same time—but he also said there was one thing missing.
“My jumping’s not there, but it’s coming,” he said. “It may not be like it was, but it’s going to come.”
Hill guarded Bryant much of the night and kept him from completely dominating the game, another sign that his latest comeback could be his last.
“It’s not going to get anymore difficult that that,” Hill said. “He can slash, he can hit 3s, he can drive, he can do so many things that he’s a difficult matchup.”
Entering this season, a stress fracture in Hill’s left ankle limited him to 47 games since joining the Magic in 2000. In that time, Orlando never advanced out of the playoffs’ first round in three tries and last year finished an embarrassing 21-61.
His comeback has sparked the team’s turnaround.
His play did the same against the Lakers.
He scored eight points in the second quarter to lead the comeback. He hit two outside jumpers and drove to the basket at will. His best play came when he grabbed a rebound on the baseline, spun to the center of the court and hit a shot as he started falling to the ground.
Then Francis took over, scoring the final nine points in the half.
His 18-foot fadeaway jumper put the Magic ahead, 50-49, with about two minutes to play in the half.
“That guy was hot,” said Lakers guard Chucky Atkins, who scored 21 points. “I was playing good defense. I had my hands up and in his face, but he made some tough shots.”
The Lakers reclaimed the lead early in the third, but Orlando used a 13-0 run to pull away for good. The highlight of the run was a no-look pass from Hill to Hedo Turkoglu, who finished with 23 points.
“We had the game in our control,” Atkins said. “We’ve got to go for the kill then.”
The Magic had four players score at least 20 points each for the first time since January 1997. … Pat Garrity and Turkoglu were a combined 9-of-15 from 3-point range. … Bryant’s night included an incident with a fan. He started jawing with a fan sitting courtside late in the first half, yelling obscenities and finally responding by saying, “You woke me up now.” … The Lakers’ closest game this season has been eight points.