Looking nothing like the player last seen limping away on a
brittle left ankle, the five-time All-Star had 18 points, seven
assists and six rebounds in his first game since last December as
the Magic beat the Philadelphia 76ers 95-88 in the first game of
the NBA season.
``Physically, I felt good,'' said Hill, who felt spry enough to
bound into the stands to save a rebound early in the third quarter.
``Mentally, I was a little rusty. But it was great to get out
there, it was good to play.''
Tracy McGrady added 31 points and five assists for the Magic,
who have won five straight home openers.
``I thought Hill and Tracy, the last eight minutes, played the
two-man game off each other as well as you can play,'' Orlando
coach Doc Rivers said. ``They're going to keep getting better.''
Hill showed no effects from the three ankle surgeries that have
held him out of all but 18 games over the past two years, shooting
5-of-10 from the field and 8-of-9 from the line. Occasionally
playing point forward, he turned the ball over three times in 33
``Sometimes, I was guarding the big guy; sometimes, I was
running the offense,'' Hill said. ``That's how we're going to play.
We're not going to have numbered positions, we're just going to
play and try to take advantage of matchups''
``I had great looks at the basket,'' said Iverson, who had two
points in the final 16 minutes. ``I just missed a lot of wide-open
shots that I can hit with my eyes closed.''
Orlando center Pat Burke -- one of 11 undrafted rookies to make
opening night NBA rosters -- led the team's final charge. The
28-year-old from Auburn scored six of his 12 points in the final
five minutes as the Magic took an 93-82 lead with 1:58 remaining.
``This is where you know the guy's older than a rookie,'' Rivers
said. ``He struggles in the first half, he comes back and stays in
the game and makes huge shots down the stretch for us. That's
Philadelphia grabbed a nine-point lead midway through the third
quarter. Van Horn had six points and Todd MacCulloch four in a 12-3
run that put Orlando down 65-56. Philadelphia acquired both players
in an offseason trade with New Jersey in exchange for Dikembe
But the Magic quickly rallied behind some defense. Forcing six
turnovers and 3-for-10 shooting over the quarter's last six
minutes, Orlando seized a 74-73 lead entering the final period.
The Magic held Philadelphia to 35 percent shooting (18-for-52)
after the first quarter and scored 25 points off 20 turnovers.
Also, the Sixers finished with 19 assists after recording 10 in the
``I know we're trying to win, but we need to learn how to win
helping each other,'' Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said. ``We
shot so many times without any opportunity to control the tempo or
get other people open.''
The Sixers dominated the paint early. Twelve of Philadelphia's
13 first-quarter baskets came from inside, and the Sixers' new
front line of MacCulloch and Van Horn combined for 15 points.
The Magic's interior defense took another hit at halftime as
Horace Grant, still recovering from offseason surgery, was
sidelined with a sore left knee.
The opening quarter left both teams in stitches. Iverson cut his
chin when he ran into Pat Garrity's elbow late in the first
quarter. Garrity and Shawn Kemp collided moments later, both
suffering small gashes to their heads.
Orlando improved its record in season openers to 8-6, while
Philadelphia fell to 27-13. ... Philadelphia was without forwards
Derrick Coleman (recovering from left knee surgery) and Greg
Buckner (right knee strain). ... This was the Sixers' fifth
straight season they have started on the road. ... The announced
attendance was 15,225, more than 2,000 short of a full house.
Orlando hasn't sold out a home opener since the beginning of the
lockout-shortened season of 1999. ... Before the game, Orlando
general manager John Gabriel told the crowd that the team is
``committed to winning right now.'' It was a stark difference from
last season, when the team's obvious unhappiness with negotiations
for a new arena culminated in a January announcement that the
franchise was up for sale. But two months later, owner Rich DeVos
changed his mind and pulled the Magic off the market.
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