Orlando nearly blew a 20-point lead for the second time in as many nights, but Dwight Howard's dominance inside and Lewis' clutch long-range shooting helped the Magic beat New Orleans 95-88 on Monday night in an impressive encore to their triumph over the mighty Boston Celtics a day earlier.
"We're not trying to kill him. I think he's doing a good job of coaching us," Lewis said of his 48-year-old coach, who had joked after the victory over Boston that he'd have a better chance of living to 50 if his team could win without squandering huge leads. "We have been building a lead on teams and then we kind of relax on defense and that's what he doesn't like. We've got to learn how to bury teams."
In winning five straight and tying a franchise-best start through 12 games at 10-2, Orlando has at least learned to beat good teams. Boston was 8-0 before losing at Orlando, which had the difficult task of playing a night later on the road against a New Orleans squad that was on a five-game winning streak.
Howard, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds, helped Orlando jump out to a big lead early. Lewis, who finished with 19 points, hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the second one giving the Magic an 89-84 lead with 1:26 to go.
"It's still a confidence booster," Lewis said. "Obviously, Boston is a great team; New Orleans is a good team."
Already playing without Chris Paul, who missed his second game with a sprained right ankle, the Hornets (9-3) lost Tyson Chandler in the second quarter when the starting center hyperextended his right knee. After the game, Chandler was on crutches, but said X-rays were negative and that he hoped to return to action within days, not weeks.
Peja Stojakovic scored 21 to lead New Orleans, which trailed by 21 in the second quarter but led by five points in the final period. Jannero Pargo, who started for Paul, scored 18 points. David West scored 14 for New Orleans and Morris Peterson 11.
"The Hornets deserve a lot more credit tonight than we do," Van Gundy said. "I am being honest. The thing that helped us was Chris Paul being out and Tyson Chandler being out for half the game."
The Hornets were down 46-31 when Chandler crashed to the floor in obvious pain. He lay on his back, holding his knee, an image that seemed to inspire his teammates, who ran the floor with a renewed sense of purpose and energy thereafter.
A dunk by Melvin Ely, followed by 3-pointers from Peterson and Stojakovic, helped the Hornets pull to 53-43 by halftime.
New Orleans then opened the second half with a 14-3 run that enlivened the home crowd. Stojakovic's short jumper gave the Hornets a 57-56 lead with 8:25 left in the third quarter.
"The effort was great as far as the comeback was concerned," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "When you don't have Chris Paul and you lose a Tyson, that's a big hurt on your team. We kept fighting and we had our chances. We just weren't able to capitalize."
Orlando called timeout and settled down, battling New Orleans point-for-point until the final minutes.
Jameer Nelson scored 16 points for Orlando, hitting on a crucial driving layup and a jumper in the final minutes. Keyon Dooling and Hedo Turkoglu each scored 15, with Turkoglu hitting two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Howard, who threw down several thunderous dunks during the game, got the Magic off to a fast start with 10 points and eight rebounds in the first quarter.
His last basket of the quarter came after he twice rebounded his own misses. Dooley added a fast-break layup soon afterward as the Magic closed out the quarter with a 33-17 lead.
- Orlando needs three more victories to match a franchise-best start of 13-2 in the 1995-96 season.
- The Magic shot 60 percent during the first quarter.
- New Orleans is 1-1 since Paul went out. Paul is day to day and might play Wednesday night when the Hornets host Indiana.
- Turkoglu missed a driving one-handed dunk at the end of the third quarter, the second time in as many games in New Orleans that a visiting player had clanked one off the back rim.
- Attendance was 11,741.
- Orlando shot 8-for-30 from 3-point range, while the Hornets were 4-for-17 from that distance.