First, Stan Van Gundy praised the Orlando Magic after yesterday's win, then he criticized them for a lackluster second half.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 20 points to lead the Magic to an 88-68 win over the visiting New Orleans Hornets yesterday in a matchup of division leaders.

"Our first half was our best offensive half of the year," the Orlando coach said. "The second half was easily our worst."

However, Van Gundy said he understood how his team could build a 61-31 halftime lead and then shoot 23 percent in the second half.

"When my wife wants me to do things around the house I do just good enough of a job to not get yelled at," he said. "That's human nature."

Dwight Howard had 12 points and 15 rebounds in Southeast-leading Orlando's sixth-straight win. Rashard Lewis added 18 points and Jameer Nelson 14. The Magic's only loss in their last 11 games was by one point at Phoenix on Dec. 12.

David West had 13 points for New Orleans, which led the Southwest Division. Chris Paul and Devin Brown each added 12. But Paul, the NBA steals leader (3.7 average), had his league-record string of 108 games with at least one steal ended.

"Half the time when I got a steal I didn't even know it," said Paul, who was unaware his streak ended until after the game. "It was going to end at some point, so why not Christmas?"

The Magic led by as many as 31 points early in the third quarter; the Hornets did not get closer than 19 points the rest of the game.

"You don't want to give the championship already, but they played well tonight," Paul said. "They got us."

Nelson said the Magic were worried about keeping Paul from creating shots offensively.

"He can pass and score," he said. "One of our big goals was to keep him out of the paint."

In other games yesterday:

* At Phoenix, a three-point shot from the corner by Roger Mason at the buzzer gave the San Antonio Spurs a 91-90 victory over the Suns, who had taken the lead on Grant Hill's layup on an out-of-bounds play with 4.3 seconds to go.

Tony Parker scored 27 points and Tim Duncan had 25 points and 17 rebounds as the Spurs won their fourth straight. Amare Stoudemire had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Shaquille O'Neal 23 points and 12 boards for the Suns, who led most of the game but never by more than eight in the second half.

Steve Nash had 13 points. His eight assists made him the 13th NBA player to reach 7,000 for his career. O'Neal was 9-for-16 at the foul line to become the only player besides Wilt Chamberlain to miss 5,000 career free throws.

* At Cleveland, down by eight to woeful Washington, the Cavaliers scored 11 straight points in the final 1:33 to preserve their perfect record at home with a 93-89 victory. Mo Williams scored 24 points, and LeBron James and Delonte West had 18 apiece for the Cavs, who at 15-0 are the NBA's lone unbeaten team at home.

Antawn Jamison scored 28 points, and Mike James had 26 for the Wizards (4-23), who dropped their eighth straight.

Noteworthy

* Orlando center Dwight Howard will defend his slam dunk championship at the NBA All-Star weekend in Phoenix in February. Howard will face off against Memphis' Rudy Gay and 2006 winner Nate Robinson of the Knicks. A fan vote will pick the fourth competitor between Milwaukee's Joe Alexander, Portland's Rudy Fernandez, and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook. *