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Orlando 99, Detroit 94
McGrady's 43 Sparks Orlando to Game 1 Win

Drew Gooden and Tracy McGrady stopped the Pistons in Game 1.
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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.

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Tracy McGrady 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 first-round series.

Following in the footsteps of Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce in 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 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, 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."

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 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 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 (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 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 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 was 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 off."

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.



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