NEW ORLEANS -- After losing 31 of their previous 35 games, the Orlando Magic were under no illusions that their comeback from a 17-point second-half deficit to beat the New Orleans Hornets 105-102 on Monday night qualified as an epic event.
But in a season filled with pain and humiliation, they'll take it.
Guard Arron Afflalo scored 11 of Orlando's 21 points in the final 5:31, including a go-ahead, 10-foot jumper in the lane with 38.2 seconds left, to provide a magic elixir, at least for one night.
"Obviously, we made some big shots and big plays down the stretch, but the biggest part was our defense," Afflalo said. "It's a cliche, but in this league, you have to forget. You can't get too high about tonight and too down about yesterday."
In a season of so many more lows than highs, Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said he took great pride in the way his team kept fighting despite being down by double digits. The Magic trailed 61-44 with 8:02 left in the third quarter in the second of back-to-back games.
The Magic also erased a 97-88 deficit with 3:28 to go by making every key stop and letting Afflalo penetrate against Eric Gordon, Jameer Nelson and Greivis Vasquez. No one could stop his penetration.
"We plugged away and played every possession," Vaughn said. "That was great to see from multiple people."
Even veteran forward Al Harrington, who has battled injuries all season, got into the act.
First, he double-teamed Vasquez near midcourt and picked his pocket for a breakaway layup that closed the deficit to 98-96 with 2:00 left.
Then Harrington gave the Magic their first lead since the second quarter by nailing a 3-pointer from the right baseline after Anthony Davis left Harrington to collapse on Afflalo, who was free in the lane.
"I was begging (Afflalo) for (the ball)," Harrington said, smiling. "Anthony Davis can't help himself because he's a big man and wants to get in the paint. I told (Afflalo) if (Davis) spins back, I'll be wide open. He threw it to me, and I hit a good shot."
After Vasquez gave the Hornets their final lead of the game at 100-99 with 1:06 left on a driving bank shot, Afflalo posted up Gordon on Orlando's next possession and made his tough jumper in the lane. Afflalo added three free throws in the final 18.8 seconds to secure the win for the Magic (17-44).
The Hornets (21-40) got 17 points each from Davis, Vasquez and Gordon but could not keep Afflalo or Nelson, who finished with 15 points, out of the lane down the stretch.
Hornets coach Monty Williams was mortified by his team's collapse.
"It was terrible," Williams said. "There's no other way to slice it. We gave up 69 points in a half against a team that played last night and had a two-hour flight.
"It boils down to keeping the ball in front of you. That's something that's plagued us all year long. I have to get guys in the game who are going to defend the way we want, even if I have to risk offense."
Orlando also got a big play down the stretch when Tobias Harris muscled in the middle of Davis and Ryan Anderson to grab a rebound on a missed free throw by Afflalo. The Magic were up 102-100, but Harris followed up his rebound by making a foul shot to give Orlando a three-point edge with 10.6 seconds left.
"That was a great, great play by him," Afflalo said. "It's not about me making free throws. It's about us coming through."
NOTES: Nelson returned for the Magic after sitting out the previous six games with a bruised knee. "The trainers did a good job of getting me out of my own way," Nelson said. "One time I went (into the lane) so fast, I was quicker than a hiccup, and the ref called traveling on me. I just felt good." ... The Hornets fell to 2-28 this season when their opponent scores at least 100 points. The 69 points allowed in the second half was the most by a Hornets opponent this season. ... After missing the previous two games with a sprained left shoulder, Davis returned to the Hornets' starting lineup. Davis was playing some of his best basketball of the season in his last two full games before the Feb. 26 injury, scoring 30 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. Williams said he wants to see Davis "defend and rebound. Everything else will come from that. When he's running the floor, it just makes us such a better team. I'm going to be careful about playing him in long stretches. I'd like to get him and Ryan (Anderson) in there together some." ... Rookie guard Austin Rivers, who struggled early in the season, averaged 7.7 points and 3.3 assists off the bench in his previous three games. "I like Austin (at backup point guard) because he gives us the ability to do some different things on defense," Williams said. "I like bigger guards because you can switch with them at the end of the shot clock. It gives you the ability to keep people out of the paint. I really like his fight. Austin doesn't back down from any situation."