The Magic met a big challenge.
After taking some early punishment, Orlando rallied to snap a four-game losing streak with an 105-87 victory over the SuperSonics on Wednesday night. Steve Francis scored 27 of his 35 points in the second half to lead Orlando.
Seattle had won three in a row, all on the road, and five of six. With the Magic slumping and the Sonics rising, it would've been understandable if Orlando folded after falling into a big hole in the first half.
"We played toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league," Orlando coach Johnny Davis said. "Their record is phenomenal, they play very good basketball, and for us to come out and meet them head on and not blink is a huge step for us."
Orlando's recent troubles stemmed from its slow starts, with double-digit halftime deficits in three games of the skid.
It appeared the Magic were doomed to repeat that trend. Behind Ray Allen's fast start, the Sonics led by 11 entering the second period. Allen scored 30 points _ 16 in the first quarter when he outscored Orlando by one.
Seattle soon extended its lead to 31-17, and yet another weak opening half prompted jeers from the Magic's usually supportive crowd.
"We let the game come to us," Francis said. "We didn't overdo things when the fans were booing. We didn't pay attention to it. We turned it into a hockey rink, put up some invisible glass around the court."
Orlando finished strong to trail 49-46 at the break. In the Magic's previous four games, their average halftime shortfall was more than 14 points.
"We built the lead in the first quarter, and then we got really loose with the ball and allowed them to get back into the game," Seattle coach Nate McMillan said.
The outburst continued after intermission, with Francis and Grant Hill leading the way. When Francis buried a jumper with 3:02 remaining in the third quarter, that capped off a 40-13 run over 12:05 stretch spanning halftime, and the Magic led by 15.
Seattle fought back, with Allen's 3-pointer and free throws bringing Seattle to 81-78 early in the fourth quarter. Francis put the game away with 12 points in the next four minutes, including back-to-back 3-pointers to give Orlando a 100-85 lead with 4:28 remaining.
Francis, with 11 rebounds, had his eighth double-double. He also had six assists.
"He made big plays throughout," Davis said. "The other part of that is, our guys were setting tremendous screens to free him up. It goes hand in hand. Steve was the finisher, but our big guys were getting him open and the other guards were delivering him the ball in a timely way.
HEAT 102, KNICKS 94: To formulate his game plan, Miami coach Stan Van Gundy watched hours of tape, studied the Knicks' tendencies and reviewed scouting reports.
And after all that, he went with the simplest possible approach _ pounding the ball to Shaquille O'Neal.
O'Neal turned in one of his most complete performances of the year, a 33-point, 18-rebound effort that helped the Heat defeat visiting New York, extending the Knicks' slide to three games.
"I was kidding with him before the game. I said 'We need a great one tonight, like 30 and 15,"' Van Gundy said. "That's coaching, guys. That's coaching, right there."
O'Neal made 14 of 21 shots from the floor for the Heat, who showed no ill effects from Monday's home loss to Seattle that snapped a franchise-record 14-game winning streak.
"They weren't really doubling that much and I always tried to take the high-percentage shot. A couple of them fell," O'Neal said. "We felt pretty good tonight. We wanted to come back and get a big win after a tough loss the other night."
Dwyane Wade scored 21, his 11th straight game of 20 or more, and added a game-high nine assists for the Heat, who held a 44-32 rebounding margin and limited the Knicks to two field goals in a seven-minute stretch of the first half.
Stephon Marbury had 28 points and eight assists, while Kurt Thomas matched a season-high with 23 points (on 11-for-15 shooting) and 12 rebounds for the Knicks.
"This is a tough stretch for us," Marbury said. "We played three talented teams. We've just got to keep moving forward. We can't let these games be a big setback. We've been there before and responded."