ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 25 (Ticker) --
Even with a deep bruise, Tracy McGrady
was able to put the Orlando Magic on his back.
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With a special fan in the stands at TD Waterhouse Centre, McGrady scored 46 points through a painful back injury and led
the Magic to a 104-99 Christmas Day victory over the Detroit Pistons.
It was the third win in four games for the Magic, who played all but a half of their previous four contests without McGrady, the NBA's leading scorer.
Ten days after taking an elbow to the back from Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, McGrady shot 14-of-26 from the field and 18-of-21 from the free throw line in 46 minutes. He played the entire second half.
"The only thing I'm kicking myself for is, I kept saying, 'We need to take him out, we need to take him out,' in the middle of the third quarter to get him back in the fourth down the stretch," Magic coach Doc Rivers said.
McGrady scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, showing no ill effects of an injury that forced him to lay face-first on the
sideline in the first half. He ended up a point off his season high.
"The adrenaline was flowing," he said. "It was frustrating sitting out. I hate sitting out. It wasn't 100 percent, but it
felt good enough to get out there and play."
McGrady especially wanted to play in front of Iran Brown, the 13-year-old sniper victim who was brought to Orlando by the
Magic to visit Walt Disney World and watch his favorite player in person.
"In a game like this, especially when I've got my man Iran up in the stands watching me play, what a feeling to just go out,
score 45 or 46 points," McGrady said. "To have him there to enjoy it was really, really special."
The Magic needed just about all of McGrady's points as they let a 17-point lead slip to two three times in the fourth quarter. But Detroit never got over the hump and lost its second straight following a six-game winning streak.
Richard Hamilton scored 22 points and Corliss Williamson added 17 for the Pistons, who were outrebounded 49-35. They scored only nine points from the free throw line (9-of-14), compared to 28 for Orlando (28-of-35).
"It's hard to give that potent an offensive team that many opportunities and expect to survive it," Pistons coach Rick
Carlisle said. "We hung in and had a chance to take the lead a couple of times. I like that, but defensively we struggled."
Chucky Atkins had 11 points off the bench for Detroit, including a trio of three-pointers during a 25-10 run that cut the deficit to 86-84 with 8:14 left. The Pistons got within two on two other occasions, but the Magic answered each time.
After Atkins' final three-pointer, McGrady hit a pair of free throws. Chauncey Billups then got Detroit within two with a jumper, but Pat Garrity hit one at the other end. Williamson then sank a pair of foul shots before McGrady scored six straight points.
McGrady hit a jumper for a 92-88 lead with 5:31 remaining and made four free throws in a 15-second span for a 96-88 advantage
with 4:20 to play.
"We need his energy, we need his scoring," Magic guard Darrell Armstrong said. "He's the guy who leads by example with his play. We've got Grant Hill and we've got Mike Miller, but when Tracy comes back, it makes it tough for other teams to match up against us."
Miller scored 15 points and Hill added 10 on 3-of-17 shooting for the Magic, who shot just 43 percent (36-of-84), compared to
51 percent (41-of-81) for Detroit, but made it up at the free-throw line.
"I don't want to get into commenting on the discrepancy of fouls," Carlisle said. "But I did think there were a couple of times down the stretch where we deserved to get calls. But that's the way it goes."
After McGrady's six consecutive points, the Pistons never again got closer than four. They were within 96-92 on a layup by
Williamson with 3:45 to play before Armstrong followed with a wild, left-handed banker with 1:52 left.
"Armstrong threw in an unbelievable shot and we had some shots that didn't fall," Carlisle said. "But when it comes right down to it, the difference in the game was the number of rebounds."
Although he had a miserable day from the field, Hill ended up with a season-best 15 boards against his former team.
"It was probably my worst shooting game in a long time, against my old team," he said. "Nevertheless, we did what we had to do and I just tried to help out in other ways."
The Magic started the game with runs of 10-1 and 18-4 before taking a 28-19 lead into the second quarter. They had a 53-43
lead at halftime, thanks to 20 points by McGrady, who capped a 12-4 run with a jumper to make it 74-57 with 4:24 left in the
"He's one of the best players in the game today," Billups said. "Bonafide scorer."