ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—The pressure has eased somewhat on Orlando Magic coach Johnny Davis, although there were a few tense moments Thursday night as his team frittered away a 20-point lead.
“A win against any team in this league is a good thing so yes, I’m feeling better,” said Davis, who has taken criticism from general manager John Weisbrod for his team’s recent slump. “We’re still basically a new team and still going through growing pains, but you can’t stop. You’ve got to keep working at it and we are.”
Francis, who also had nine assists and seven rebounds, hit his key shot after Atlanta cut its deficit to 97-94 with 38 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Antoine Walker.
It was only the second win in the last six games for Orlando, which has sputtered to a 13-17 record after a surprising 13-6 start to the season.
The Magic got 24 points from reserve Hedo Turkoglu and 15 points and 20 rebounds from rookie Dwight Howard, who became the first rookie since Tim Duncan in 1997-98 to record two 20-rebound games in a season.
“That’s just a scratch of what he could do for us night in and night out,” Francis said. “He was a monster down there.”
Atlanta was forced to play without injured starters Tyronn Lue, Al Harrington and Josh Smith, but the Hawks got 25 points from backup point guard Tony Delk and 25 from Walker. Atlanta also got 19 points and 10 rebounds from rookie Josh Childress.
“Our guys are playing hard,” Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. “With only 10 wins, we could easily throw in the towel, but we’re not doing that. We played well enough to win this game, we just didn’t get any breaks.”
Turkoglu, the only Magic reserve to score, had 13 of 15 points in a 15-3 run that gave Orlando a 56-38 lead with 2:04 left in the first half. Orlando pushed the advantage to 74-54 on two free throws by Howard with 5:51 left in the third quarter, then tried to coast.
They barely made it as Delk put on a show in the fourth quarter with 12 points.
“It’s hard when you’re up in a game for a long time like that,” Francis said. “It’s hard to consistently stay focused for that period of time. I’m definitely happy with the result, but we improved in some areas.”
The Magic placed C Andrew DeClercq on the injured list with a sore knee and activated F Brandon Hunter. … Atlanta played without C Predrag Drobnjak (sprained ankle) and PG Tyronn Lue (strained Achilles). … The Magic led 31-15 at the end of the first period, their largest first-quarter lead this season. … Howard, who is from Atlanta, is averaging 18.3 points and 13.3 rebounds against the Hawks. … Childress, who had his first double-double in Atlanta’s last game, followed it up with 19 points and 10 rebounds.