ORLANDO, Fla., March 30 (Ticker) -- Grant Hill
helped the Orlando
Magic end a disappointing month on a positive note.
Unfortunately, April may be even tougher.
Hill scored 21 points to lead a balanced attack as the Magic
enjoyed one of their last "easier" games of the season with a
108-96 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
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After being above .500 for much of the season, the Magic
struggled through March, posting a 6-10 record. The month
included the firing of coach Johnny Davis on March 17, a
three-game suspension for guard Steve Francis
season-ending injury to swingman Hedo Turkoglu
"This whole month, this whole month with everything that's
happened is so crazy," Magic guard DeShawn Stevenson
coaching change, Hedo breaking his wrist -- everything's going
downhill. Hopefully at the start of April, we'll come out with a
whole different attitude and a fresh start."
Hill, who had missed much of the last four seasons with a
career-threatening ankle injury, will be one of the key
components down the stretch for the Magic, who last made the
playoffs in 2003.
Against the Raptors (29-42), who fell into last place in the
Atlantic Division, Hill scored 15 points in the first half as
the Magic opened a 55-45 lead. They led by as many as 17 points
after the break.
Rookie Dwight Howard
added 18 points and Kelvin Cato
season-high 17 for the Magic (34-37), who have won consecutive
games for the first time in more than three weeks and pulled
within one game of Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference's
final playoff berth.
But the Magic will have a challenging April, with nine of their
11 games against teams with winning records. They face Miami,
Dallas, Detroit twice and Chicago twice.
The Magic begin the stretch Friday here against Washington,
which is fourth in the East.
"It will mean a lot more if we can beat a team like Washington
(Friday)," Hill said. "A lot of things have changed since the
last time we played them."
"No game is easy. No game is easy," said Francis, who had 16
points and nine assists. "We just have to put our heads down
and act like bulls every single game."
also netted 16 points for Orlando, which converted
the Raptors' season-high 23 turnovers into 34 points.
"I thought we did a good job of getting up in their faces,"
Francis said. "You know they have Donyell Marshall
, who's a
tough shooter. And Jalen Rose
and Morris Peterson
can score. So,
I thought for us the thing was to try and be aggressive and
physical, get the ball out and push it. I thought we did a good
job of it."
scored 17 points to lead the Raptors, whose costly
turnovers offset 49 percent (37-of-75) shooting as they fell to
1-3 on a five-game road trip.
"We need to develop maturity and responsibility, a know-how, a
willingness to play to win instead of playing just to play,"
Raptors forward Jalen Rose
said. "I'm in this to win. This is
frustrating, disappointing and flat-out embarrassing."
Garrity's dunk with just over 2½ minutes left in the third
quarter gave the Magic their biggest lead at 81-64. They held
an 85-69 advantage entering the final period.
The Raptors attempted to make a charge, using a 9-2 surge to
open the fourth quarter to close 87-78 on Eric Williams
with 9:23 to play.
But Stevenson fed Francis for an alley-oop dunk, then made a
driving layup and Howard converted two free throws as the Magic
rebuilt the lead to double digits.