ORLANDO, Fla. -- The New Orleans Hornets are making it harder on everyone else than they're supposed to. That's still not helping their record much.
The injury-plagued Hornets lost their second consecutive game by less than four points on Wednesday night when the Orlando Magic held on to win 86-83.
"It's been like that lately. We play hard, but we've got to close out games," said Tyson Chandler, who had 11 rebounds. "We've got to get out of our heads that other guys are out."
With the Magic leading by three, Carlos Arroyo lost the ball on a physical drive to the basket with time running down on their last possession. But New Orleans' Rasual Butler missed a 3-pointer the next trip down, ending the game.
Trailing by five with 9:51 left in the fourth quarter, the Magic rattled off a 17-3 run in less than five minutes to take an 84-75 lead. Reserve Travis Diener, who rarely plays in close games, led the way with nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
But Orlando scored only two more points in the final five minutes and Paul brought the Hornets back with five free throws down the stretch.
"I didn't like our energy and our offensive execution tonight, but I feel like we were fortunate to get out of it with a win," Orlando coach Brian Hill said.
Butler scored 15 points for New Orleans, while Desmond Mason had 14.
Trevor Ariza, starting his fourth game, scored 14 for Orlando and Diener finished with 13.
Orlando shot 45 percent from the field to 37 percent for the Hornets. But New Orleans went 6-of-9 from 3-point range while Orlando was 3-of-10.
Paul also had an impressive drive to the lane for a dunk over an outstretched Howard. Paul converted the free throw for a 59-57 third-quarter lead.
"I didn't know I was going to dunk it. It is the first time I have dunked on someone in the NBA," said the 6-foot Paul, who is 11 inches shorter than Howard.
Both teams were short-handed. The Hornets played without Peja Stojakovic, who had lower back surgery Sunday and is expected to be out for a while. David West had surgery for a strained right forearm Wednesday and Bobby Jackson sat out again with a cracked rib.
The Hornets did not make a field goal for the first 9:18 until Paul had a three-point play after getting fouled on a layup. By then they were down 24-7 and on their way to a 16 percent first-quarter shooting performance.
"New Orleans is a good team. A scary team when you're up by 20 and they're fighting to get back in the game," Howard said.
But Orlando hit its own skid after that. The Magic went 7:33 from the first quarter into the second without a field goal, and another 5:45 until their next bucket after that.
During that span, Pargo scored 12 straight points, drawing New Orleans to 31-27 with 5:54 left in the second quarter.
"We did a heck of a job getting back into the game. I think at the end we had a few guys that have to play so many minutes that they got a little tired," Hornets coach Byron Scott said.
- Orlando F Pat Garrity played in his 500th career game.
- Six of Orlando's next eight games are at home.
- New Orleans was called for four defensive three-second violations, to one for Orlando.