AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 20 (Ticker) --
The Detroit Pistons had the
best record in the Eastern Conference, but the Orlando Magic
have the best player.
NBA TV highlights from|
Dunk of the Night:
American Express Play of Day:
scored 17 of his team playoff-record 43 points in
the fourth quarter to lead the Magic to a 99-94 victory over the
top-seeded Pistons in the opener of their Eastern Conference
Following in the footsteps of Dirk Nowitzki
and Paul Pierce
playoff openers 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 three free throws in
the final 46.5 seconds.
Nowitzki scored a career-high 46 points in Dallas' win over
Portland and Pierce netted 21 of his 40 in the final period of
Boston's victory at Indiana on Saturday.
McGrady took his turn on the playoff stage in this one and
pulled out his bag of tricks, driving to the basket with
reckless abandon and punctuating some of those with reverse
layups, 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
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, allowing just 87.7
points, but had no answer for McGrady. Carlisle may want to
consider putting a second defender on him in Game Two, which is
Wednesday 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."
, considered one of the league's top defenders,
and Clifford Robinson
took turns defending the
NBA scoring champion with little success.
"I just stay attack mode when I see it's 1-on-1," 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
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
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
The Pistons, the only team in the East to win 50 games, shot
just 32 percent from the field (24-of-76). 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 Detroits day, missing
13-of-16 shots from the field but converting 15-of-19 free
"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."
and Chucky Atkins
, two of the Pistons' top
reserves, combined to hit 4-of-15 shots.
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."
High school star LeBron James, the probable No. 1 pick in the
NBA draft, was in a courtside seat and often smiled at McGrady's
heroics. He was only a few feet away when McGrady soared for a
jaw-dropping dunk over Mehmet Okur
in the first quarter.
But the 6-9 McGrady was especially lethal in the second half,
when he netted 28 points.
He was at his best after Atkins ended the third quarter with a
3-point bank shot, then opened the fourth with another 3-pointer
to pull the Pistons within 76-75.
McGrady took over, accounting for the game's next 10 points with
a three-point play on a lefthanded drive, a 3-pointer from the
left side, a pair of free throws and a lefthanded finger roll to
put the Magic ahead, 86-75, with 7:46 left.
After another basket with 7:12 remaining, McGrady was outscoring
the Pistons, 12-5, in the quarter.
Holding a comfortable 90-79 lead with 5 1/2 minutes left, the
Magic appeared headed for victory. But the Pistons fought back
with a 14-4 run. Wallace hit a pair of free throws with 1:57
left and Billups added a pair with 1:02 remaining to pull the
Pistons within 94-93.
McGrady took matters in his own hands, driving to the basket and
drawing a foul on Robinson with 46.5 seconds left before making
both free throws.
After Billups missed a running bank shot, Gordan Giricek
fouled and made two free throws with 15 seconds left, increasing
Orlando's lead to 98-93.
Billups made 1-of-2 free throws with 10 seconds remaining and
McGrady did the same with 9.4 seconds left.
"Obviously, I want to get out of the first round because I've
been put out for three consecutive years," said McGrady, who is
2-9 in postseason games over the last three years. "It's just
something that I'm out to prove to a lot of people that although
I'm the only All-Star on the team, I'm capable of pulling this
McGrady scored 10 points in the first quarter, helping the Magic
built a 24-19 lead. He sat for the first four minutes of the
second period and when he returned, Orlando held a 34-25
advantage. The Pistons missed 18 of their first 22 shots.
McGrady made a spectacular play when he drove past Robinson on
the left wing and dunked over Okur while he was fouled from
behind by Jon Barry
. His three-point play increased the lead to
39-27 with 6 1/2 minutes left.
Orlando held a 49-40 halftime advantage as the Pistons shot an
abysmal 26 percent (11-of-43).
Detroit started the third quarter with a 15-7 run and pulled
within 56-55 on a three-point play by Billups with 7:39 left.
But Orlando responded with an 18-9 spurt as McGrady hit two
3-pointers and a pair of free throws.