INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tracy McGrady already has established
himself as one of the most athletic and prolific scorers in the
league. His next mission is to get Orlando out of the first round
of the playoffs.
McGrady scored 35 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, leading
Orlando to its third consecutive playoff berth with a
98-86 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
''I'm ready for any challenge thrown my way,'' McGrady said.
''We're a young team and I hope these guys really understand the
playoffs are another season. It's not going to be as easy as it was
during the regular season.''
Orlando hasn't got past the first round of the playoffs since
The Magic turned the game around in the third, going on a 14-4
run to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. They let the Pacers
close to one midway through the fourth, but Pat Garrity hit a
jumper and a 3-pointer to push the lead back to six.
Another 3-pointer by Garrity, who finished with 11 points, made
it 86-75 and the Magic cruised from there. Orlando finished the series
1-2 against the Pacers.
McGrady was in a funk his past three games at Indiana, scoring
only 37 points on 28 percent shooting (14-for-50). In the first two
games this year in the season series, McGrady was held to a total
of 36 points -- more than 14 points below his season average.
His final numbers from the floor Friday weren't much better -- only 11-for-32 -- but he seemed to find his groove by settling in
beyond the 3-point line. He got going early in the first quarter hitting
consecutive 3-pointers, from the left baseline and the top of the
arc. He added two more in the second, sinking four of five in the
half and 5-for-10 overall.
''We want to go into the playoffs with a lot of confidence and
playing well,'' McGrady said. ''I feel we can win any series and we
just have to believe that.''
Both teams are jockeying for playoff positioning. The Magic
entered the game in the seventh spot, only a game ahead of
Milwaukee, while the Pacers were the fourth seed. With
Philadelphia's defeat against New York, the Pacers could have moved into a
tie for third.
Instead, they let another one slip away. The Magic shot only 38
percent from the field, but capitalized on those misses, outscoring
the Pacers 16-5 on second-chance points.
That left normally mild-mannered Pacers coach Isiah Thomas
fuming, accusing his players of being more interested in reading
the stat sheet and watching highlights of themselves on television.
''I told them that I thought they had become one of the most
selfish groups of players that I have seen in a while,'' Thomas
said. ''I think the way we're playing now offensively is just
selfish. We don't move the basketball, we don't set screens for
each other, we don't share.''
Indiana's locker room was quiet with the televisions, normally
showing various NBA games, turned off. Most of the players made an
early exit and those who stuck around, like O'Neal and Al
Harrington, blew off the media.
Thomas said he was searching for answers.
''One of the toughest things to get young players individually
and collectively to do is think team,'' he said. ''Everybody is
trying to make their mark. Everybody wants to be an All-Star and
show what he can do. Right now, that's what's hurting us.''
The Pacers did lead by 15 in the second quarter, until Orlando
chipped away with a 10-0 run to end the half.
McGrady was fouled by O'Neal on a 3-point attempt with 15.8
seconds left in the first half. He hit all three, pulling the Magic
to 46-45 at the half, but it was O'Neal's third foul.
Another 3 by McGrady early in the third tied the score at 48.
Four minutes into the half, O'Neal was whistled for his fourth
personal and was benched for the rest of the quarter.
Without O'Neal in the lineup, Orlando went on its run and
held a 72-65 lead at the end of the third.
Pacers guard Ron Mercer did not play because of a strained
lower back. ... Orlando forward Drew Gooden sat out with a sprained big
toe and tendinitis in a knee. ... Pacers guard Tim Hardaway left late
in the first half with back spasms and did not return. ... O'Neal
said he was honored to be asked to join the 2004 U.S. Olympic men's
basketball team. ... The Pacers had their sixth sellout of the
year. ... There were five players in the game who went straight to
the NBA from high school. Indiana's Bender, O'Neal and Harrington
and Orlando's McGrady and Shawn Kemp. ... O'Neal had his 42nd
double-double. McGrady had his 17th.