ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—The Orlando Magic lost so many times last season, they’re not about to turn up their noses at ugly victories this year.
In a sloppy game marred by technical fouls, turnovers and a cheap shot, the Magic beat the Memphis Grizzlies 96-91 on Saturday night. Winning for the fifth time in six games, Orlando put itself six games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2001-02 season.
“This was a game we grinded out,” coach Johnny Davis said. “The first half we did some good things on the floor, the second half we let things get away from us but we did enough to secure the win.”
Leading the Magic was Grant Hill, who had 23 points, seven assists—and an uncharacteristic technical foul.
“I don’t look at it as a bad thing,” said Hill, who has been hit with technical fouls 20 times in his career. “Sometimes you’ve got to get one. Coach K (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski) gotten a tech before.”
Kelvin Cato backed his career-high 18 rebounds with 13 points for his third double-double in four games. In that span, he’s grabbed 54 rebounds.
“He was just tremendous on the boards, defending Pau Gasol down the stretch and just kept us steady on the interior,” Davis said.
Hedo Turkoglu and Steve Francis each scored 16 points, with Francis adding eight assists, five rebounds and five steals. He also had seven of the Magic’s 17 turnovers. Dwight Howard blocked four shots to go with his nine points and six rebounds.
The Grizzlies trailed by double digits for much of the game and were down by 19 late in third quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers by James Posey followed by another from Earl Watson pulled Memphis to 85-77 with 6 minutes remaining.
Posey scored a season-high 15 points while Watson had 12 and a season-best 10 assists. Pau Gasol led Memphis with 20 points, and Stromile Swift added 16.
Memphis got the margin down to five points with 38 seconds left, but the Magic played just enough defense and hit just enough foul shots (five of eight) down the stretch to snap a four-game losing skid to the Grizzlies.
Undone by a season-worst 23 turnovers, the Grizzlies lost for the sixth time in seven games.
“We didn’t have energy early,” said new Memphis coach Mike Fratello, who couldn’t follow Friday night’s victorious debut with another win. “We didn’t run back for transition points and it really hurt us. They got some easy scores, 24 points off turnovers. It was devastating.”
Through foul trouble and a lapse of judgment, Orlando almost immediately found itself thin on the front line. Howard picked up his second foul less than four minutes into the game, and two minutes later Tony Battie was ejected for throwing an elbow at Gasol’s face.
“It’s just one of those plays. If they call it you just have to deal with that,” Davis said. “It cost us Tony’s services, but what makes a team a good team is that someone steps in and does the job for us. We had that tonight.”
Turkoglu, replacing Battie, picked up three fouls within 7 1/2 minutes.
The Magic were on official Ed Malloy after he ejected Battie, upset to the point where the mild-mannered Hill got his technical after a third-quarter charge. That was the first of three technicals called against Orlando.
“I thought Grant had a good point,” Davis said. “If Grant Hill is complaining about something on the floor, then something’s wrong.”
In the opening half, the Magic finally backed their run-and-gun offense with some defense. In the previous five games, Orlando’s opponents were averaging 60 points before the break. But the Grizzlies, after shooting 41 percent and committing 12 turnovers, had only 38 points at intermission and trailed by 17.
“We were happy we were able to come back and play with much better effort in the second half,” said Gasol, whose streak of double-doubles ended at four. “That was a positive upside, but we have to do a much better job in the first half.”
The Magic have five wins against Western Conference teams after having four all of last season. … Memphis point guard Jason Williams sat out with a sore right foot. … After winning in New York on Friday night, the Magic have their first three-game road winning streak since Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2001. Orlando begins a six-game, 12-day road trip in Denver on Monday. … Fratello is the seventh coach in Grizzlies history, but just the third to post a win in his debut.