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Afflalo strong late as Magic outlast Hornets

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Associated Press
3/5/2013 12:11:56 AM
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NEW ORLEANS -- Arron Afflalo bolted through a crowd of Hornets defenders as he angled toward the hoop, switching the ball from his left hand to his right to hit a layup Orlando needed to keep another game from slipping away.

Minutes later, he sank an 11-foot turnaround fade in the lane with Eric Gordon's hand in his face -- yet another clutch play that led the Magic to an unlikely comeback on the road.

Afflalo finished with a game-high 26 points, scoring five in the final 38 seconds, and Orlando snapped a three-game skid by erasing a 17-point, second-half deficit en route to a 105-102 victory over New Orleans on Monday night.

"It was great to see the guys feel it and get rewarded for their effort," Magic coach Jacques Vaughn said. "We get down 17 and still plug away and play each possession."

Jameer Nelson, returning from a left knee injury that sidelined him six games, scored 15 points and Tobias Harris also scored 15 for Orlando, which erased a nine-point deficit during the final 3:15.

Afflalo scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter. His late turnaround over Gordon gave Orlando the lead for good at 101-100 with 38 seconds left.

Afflalo hit two free throws soon after to make it 103-100, but found himself back on the free-throw line in a one-point game with 12 seconds left after Anthony Davis' tip-in made it 103-102.

Afflalo missed his second free throw, but Harris got the offensive rebound and hit one of two free throws to make it a three-point game with 10.6 seconds left.

"I'm glad Tobias got that last rebound, because I think my swag was a little too high," Afflalo said. "Great, great play by him. It's not about me making free throws. It's just about coming through. ... From the tip today we struggled at some moments, but we continued to fight together."

The Hornets then struggled to set up a clean final shot, and Greivis Vasquez's off-balance 3 in the final seconds missed badly -- his third miss in the last 23 seconds -- sealing New Orleans' collapse.

"It was terrible. There's no other way to slice it," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "We gave up 69 points in (the second) half against a team that played last night and had a two-hour flight. That, to me, is not something we should be proud of at all. Even if we had won that game I would still be upset about our defensive effort."

Davis, returning from a left shoulder sprain that sidelined him two games, had 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots, but lamented New Orleans' lacklustre second-half defence.

"We can't allow ourselves to fall back like that, especially when we had the game in our hands, momentum going our way," Davis said. "They just went on a run. We missed assignments, gave up corner 3's and free-throw rebounds."

Vasquez and Gordon each added 17 points, but the normally explosive Gordon scored only five points in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.

Ryan Anderson, who played for Orlando last season, scored 13 points, and his 3-pointer gave New Orleans a 97-88 lead with 3:30 left and had the crowd on its feet.

Orlando called timeout, and when the game resumed, Afflalo made his tough change-of-hands layup, sparking an 11-1 run which Al Harrington capped with a 3 that put the Magic briefly in front 99-98.

Maurice Harkless, who had 13 points, had a follow-up dunk during the surge. Harrington finished with 10 points.

New Orleans led for most of the game, which included dramatic shifts in momentum.

After trailing the entire first quarter and much of the second, Orlando took its first and only lead of the first three quarters with a 9-0 run that featured Afflalo's mid-range jumper and 3 as Orlando went up 36-31.

New Orleans then closed the half on a 15-0 run in which Vasquez scored six on three-point play and 3-pointer to make it 46-36 at halftime.

The Hornets extended the run to 19-0 in the second half and later took their biggest lead when back-to-back 3s by Anderson and Gordon made it 61-44.

At that point, it looked as if the Hornets would run away with a home-court rout, but Orlando was far from finished.

Nelson, who had missed all four of his shots in the first half, hit a 3 from the left corner, sparking a 22-5 run in which he scored 11 points himself. Nelson added a three-point play on a driving layup as he was fouled and hit another 3 during the spurt, and Afflalo's short turnaround in the lane tied the game at 66 with 2:28 still left in the third quarter.

Nelson said his knee gave him no problems, adding he felt "quicker than a hiccup."

"I just felt good," Nelson said. "This means a lot, being down by as many points as we were and going on to win."

Notes: The Hornets entered the game 5-0 on Mondays this season. ... Vasquez, who had eight assists, has had the Hornets' team-high (either tied or alone) in assists in each of the club's 61 games this season. ... Harris, who averaged 4.9 points in 28 games in Milwaukee earlier this season, is now averaging 16.8 points in his first six games with Orlando since being traded as part of a six-player deal Feb. 21.

Arron Afflalo (Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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