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Orlando 99, Detroit 94

April 20, 2003 at 7:20 PM   |   Comments

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 20 (UPI) -- Tracy McGrady scored 17 of his team playoff-record 43 points in the fourth quarter Sunday to lead the Orlando Magic to a 99-94 victory over the top-seeded Detroit Pistons in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Following in the footsteps of Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce on Saturday, McGrady put on an MVP-type performance, scoring all of Orlando's points in a 10-0 fourth-quarter run and sealing the win with four free throws in the final 46.5 seconds.

Nowitzki scored a franchise playoff-high 46 points in Dallas' playoff-opening win over Portland and Pierce netted 21 of his 40 in the final period of Boston's win at Indiana.

McGrady took his turn on the playoff stage in this one and pulled out his bag of tricks, driving to the basket for reverse layups and punctuating those with dunks and floaters in the lane.

"I was just being relentless out there on the basketball court," McGrady said. "I felt like I could get any shot and I just kept attacking."

Pistons Coach Rick Carlisle opted not to double-team McGrady and the 6-8 forward took advantage, making 15 of 28 shots from the field and 10 of 12 from the line.

The Pistons have the NBA's best defense this season, allowing just 87.7 points, but had no answer for McGrady. Carlisle may want to consider putting a second defender on him in Game 2, which will be Wednesday night in Detroit.

"This guy is arguably the best guy on the planet," Carlisle said. "We know he is going to score some points, but he is doing some spectacular things out there. We don't want to change what we do on defense, but we are going to have to try to do a better job on him."

Michael Curry, considered one of the league's top defenders, Chauncey Billups and Clifford Robinson took turns defending the NBA scoring champion with little success.

"I just stay attack mode when I see it's one on one," McGrady said. "Those guys are pretty solid on the defensive end, but you have to keep coming at them, and that's what I was doing."

Billups had no chance when McGrady took him to the basket and hit a short bank shot with 3:41 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Magic a 92-85 lead.

"He's a great player, one of the best in the game," Billups said. "We had a hand in his face and contested his shots, but we didn't get enough help on him. You've got to have two guys on him as much as possible."

McGrady's 43 points surpassed the team playoff record of 42 he shared with Penny Hardaway.

"It was Tracy McGrady's day," Magic point guard Darrell Armstrong said. "It's so smooth, it looks effortless. Somehow, some way, he just comes up with shots. You think he's going to go past you, then he raises up. And when he shoots like that, you can see he has a lot of confidence."

Orlando also received a big boost from rookie Drew Gooden, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds in his playoff debut.

"When you're a rookie, sometimes you get a little tentative," you get a little scared," Magic Coach Doc Rivers said. "I just told him and the rest of the players to be aggressive, and Drew really stepped up and played well. We need his inside presence."

The Pistons, the only team in the East to win 50 games, shot just 32 percent from the field. But they were able to stay close throughout because of their free-throw shooting, converting 40 of 47 from the line.

"When you shoot that bad in a playoff game, it's unlikely you're going to win," Carlisle said. "We have to take a long look at the shots we're taking."

Detroit's Richard Hamilton scored 28 points in his playoff debut, making all 12 of his free throws.

Billups had 21 points and best summarized Detroit's day, missing 13 of 16 shots from the field but converting 15 of 19 free throws.

"Bad shooting nights happen to everyone but not usually like that," Billups said. "I missed some shots and so did everyone else. I'm not sure what happened."

Corliss Williamson and Chucky Atkins, two of the Pistons' top reserves, combined to hit four of 15.

Pistons All-Star forward Ben Wallace returned after missing the final six games of the regular season with a sprained left MCL but was outplayed by Gooden.

The NBA's leading rebounder and second-leading shot blocker, Wallace had seven points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

"The knee felt good," Wallace said. "I was able to move side to side. I was able to push off and I was able to elevate. It was stiff at first but not sore at all, and it loosened up as the game went on."

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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